Lake Zurich Village board members and staff gathered, Tuesday night, to discuss which direction to take to get downtown development back on track.
Consultant Lee Brown of Teska Associates recommended that the village start over with Block A, the village-owned Main Street site across form the Promenade, but this time take a more formal process to attracting qualified developers.
“Our recommendation is that it is time to look at a way of building momentum, building success,” Brown said.
Brown proposed a formal two-step process that begins with an RFQ, request for qualifications. Village staff and consultants would ask developers to provide their credentials and references.
Brown said the previous process, in which developers approached the board with their ideas for a courtesy review, did not allow for even evaluation of the four proposals.
“With these four developers there were no rules, there was nothing other than their wily ability to convince you. There was nothing guaranteeing that they could make a sale,” he said.
In step two, village staff and consultants would sift out the RFQs and choose a limited number of developers, about three, to proceed to a Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP would ask for the details of developer’s proposals as well as proof of financial ability to undertake the project.
“You hold the assets and you should act like a banker,” Brown told board members.
One concern voiced by trustees is that starting over with a new process will take time, as much as a year.
Trustee Jonathon Sprawka expressed concerns that after another year, the village could be back in the same boat. Trustee Terry Mastandrea said he was concerned that the board failed to meet consensus with the four developers interested in Block A, this past summer, and that could happen again.
Trustee Rich Sustich suggested that the village also work on finding developers for the other parcels in downtown. Brown said the focus should be on Block A, but village staff could also promote the other areas to developers.
Another source of concern for village board members is the type of development that the market can support. While village residents seem to want retail on Block A, most developers are interested in apartments or condominiums.
Brown told the board that there is no market for retail currently. He said the development of Block A should be dictated by what is economically feasible in the marketplace.
“Doesn’t that kill the idea of a destination if it’s nothing but apartments,” asked Poynton.
“You can’t beat the market,” Brown said. He added that the population density doesn’t support retail development for downtown, unless the village was willing to subsidize it.
Brown told board members that he believes the community would be more interested in seeing progress downtown.
“They want a rational approach to downtown,” he said.
“I’m prepared to take advantage of your proposal,” Poynton said. “It’s better than doing nothing. We just keep wasting big blocks of time and we’re not getting any place."