email@example.com | @pioneer_kathy | Sept. 5 2:07 p.m.
Wilmette has again sold the 611 Green Bay Road property, after its original developer abandoned it earlier this year.
The new deal with Itasca-based M&R Development comes with a higher sales price, continued adherence to Wilmette’s vision of downtown and more confidence that this developer will stick with the project.
The tentative agreement calls for M&R to purchase the former Wil-Shore Ford property, just under an acre in size, for $4.1 million, and construct a six-story mixed-use development with about 94 high-end apartments above first floor retail space.
Village trustees are expected to formally consider the sales contract at their Sept. 23 meeting. Once that’s approved, M&R can begin its due diligence process.
Officials expect that, and the public hearing process, to take six to nine months, and both sides hope for a ground-breaking in mid 2015, according to the official release from Village Manager Tim Frenzer.
Village President Bob Bielinski said Friday that the board and village staff looked at more than the price when they ultimately chose M&R from among nine potential suitors.
“Price was certainly one thing, but only one thing,” he said Sept. 5. “The economics were favorable, and what they proposed is 100 percent consistent with the master plan.
“Our confidence that we were actually going to reach a groundbreaking was also important.”
That component is understandable in light of Wilmette’s experience with Lexington Homes LLC. Village officials made a tentative $4 million deal with that Chicago-based company in 2012.
But the project, which featured an 8,000 square foot mid-rise mix of residential and retail, lagged while Lexington tried to add more property to the mix with sporadic efforts to buy neighboring businesses. After several official requests for contract extensions, Lexington let its contract lapse this February.
In April Bielinski insisted that the property was still attractive to developers; in May the village board approved a contract with Deerfield-based Gruen and Gruen and Associates. Consultants from that company helped Wilmette evaluate the nine companies that made solid offers, and narrow the choice down to M&R, Bielinski said.
Following announcement of the agreement, Bielinski acknowledged that he and other village officials are also happy that M&R “was willing to move forward without a contingency based around other components. 611 Green Bay was what they needed and what they were going to use.”
Bielinski also said M&R’s plans fit well with the transit-oriented vision of higher-density downtown residential development that power’s Wilmette’s village center master plan. That plan was incorporated into the village’s comprehensive plan and zoning code last year.
“The proposed development will have easy access to the Metra UP-North line as well as our vibrant downtown dining, shopping and entertainment scene, and will provide the village and local school districts with real estate and sales tax revenues to pay for needed services,” Bielinski said.
In the official press release, M&R Development is listed as a luxury apartment ownership, development and management company that has developed 14 properties with a total value in excess of $600 million.
Since 1999 M&R has completed residential developments in Chicago exurbs, including Gurnee, Oswego and Aurora, as well projects in Naperville, Crystal Lake and Oakbrook Terrace.
More recently, it’s moved closer to Chicago, with two high-rise residential projects in the city’s near north downtown. It also completed a four-story 80-unit Central Station mixed-use development on Central Street in Evanston. That was completed last year.
On its website, M&R touts its efforts to enhance “green” aspects in developments, although that was not mentioned in Friday’s project announcement. The announcement did highlight M&R’s plans to include a fitness center, terrace space for entertaining, and a cyber café in the Wilmette development.
M&R Properties representative Tony Russo Jr. didn’t immediately return a call for comment.
In addition to the sale price announced by officials Friday morning, the M&R agreement includes a little extra; an $80,000 donation to Wilmette’s housing assistance program. That’s enough to keep the program going for another two years.
Advocates for affordable housing in Wilmette, including Wilmette Cares and Open Communities, have repeatedly lobbied the village to consider affordable housing options in any development mix.
Bielinski said the idea of a donation to the housing program’s escrow account came up during discussions, much of which took place over the summer.
“We’re thrilled that they were willing to donate this as part of the agreement,” he said.