The Village Board on Monday gave full zoning approval for LA Fitness to bring a health club to the former Wickes Furniture building at 825 S. Old Rand Road.
Board approval came despite urgings by the plan commission that a 5-inch-thick concrete wall be installed to shield nearby residents from expected increases in noise and light.
Residents who attended the Aug. 25 plan commission meeting asked for a wall similar to the one installed around the Lake Zurich Walmart to enhance the privacy of residents living behind it.
Bob Brownson of Oxford Development, who is brokering the deal between LA Fitness and the village, said the price tag of $250,000 to complete the prefabricated concrete wall just isn’t feasible.
“Our project cannot absorb the cost (of that project); nothing will get rid of all of the noise, because the residences are located near Rand Road,” Brownson said.
The reason for the hefty price tag, according to Brownson, is a 6-foot berm and silty soils in the area, which could make the wall unstable without extensive — and expensive — structural engineering work.
Brownson added that there is a significant difference in use between Walmart and LA Fitness. He cited recent visits to other locations where he found 12 cars in the parking lot at 9:45 p.m. on a Friday, while he observed more than 50 cars at an area Walmart.
In a letter to the village from Oxford dated Aug. 31, the company states an investment of $3.8-million will be required to purchase the building and to bring it up to design and use standards.
An additional $3 million will be invested to design the interior to fit the intended use.
What the company does plan to appease resident concerns is to fortify the cedar fence that already divides the residential areas from the property.
“We will install a 3-inch board on every gap in the current fence to create a solid fence line,” Brownson said. “There are missing boards, which will be replaced, and we will install a fortifying structure behind the fence to eliminate the light from cars pulling up.”
Oxford also plans to improve the lighting along the access drive by eliminating taller light fixtures to reduce the amount of light shining on residential neighbors. The company also will provide additional landscaping.
Residents also expressed concern about a window on the building that reflects large amounts of light into their neighborhood.
Brownson said his company is aware of the issue and will be installing an opaque window tint so it is no longer an issue.
As part of the approval, LA Fitness will be allowed to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because it is a permitted use for the property as it is zoned. The only other LA Fitness location to offer 24/7 hours is in New York City.
The exact hours of operation have not yet been determined by the company, but they do have the flexibility to be open when they choose to.
Brownson said filling the vacant building is a unique opportunity for Lake Zurich.
“The building doesn’t really lend itself to a range of other retail activities; it is 45,000 square feet with a depth of 200 feet,” said Brownson. “The parcel needs to be a destination tenant and has the potential to sit vacant for a good few years.”
Brownson said his company provides the benefit of bringing the property out of foreclosure and should have a lease agreement with LA Fitness in as little as two weeks.
Oxford is the contract purchaser of the property, and Brownson said the closing is expected to occur later this fall.
“This is not a one-step process; we need a signed lease along with the zoning approval to finalize the project,” Brownson said.
Other changes will include:
- Reducing all lights to single-headed fixtures.
- Adding custom-fabricated baffles so light points down in the parking lot.
- Filling in any gaps in landscaping between the health club property and residential areas.
- Moving the detention pond on the property underground, which would help it function better than it does now, said Public Works Director David Heyden.
- Turning parking lights off when the business is closed.
- Closing the loading dock previously used by Wickes Furniture.