CRYSTAL LAKE,IL-Meijer's 10th location in the Chicago market isshaping up as another tough sell the Grand Rapids, MI-based groceryand general merchandise retailer. Zoning board of appeals membersunanimously recommended against rezoning for a retail project afterhome owners living next to a 34-acre site at the southeast cornerof Route 31 and Three Oaks Road object to the increase traffic,safety problems and demolition of 100-year-old oak trees.

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The plans for a 24-hour, 195,714-sf Meijer's store as well as amedical center and three restaurants got a chilly reception fromabout 50 neighbors at a recent zoning board of appeals publicmeeting. Meijer's officials received a postponement of a scheduledplan commission hearing, pushing consideration by the city councilin this far northwest suburb into November.

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A partnership that includes Meijer Stores Limited Partnership,Mercy Health System Corp. and Rubloff Three Oaks LLC are asking torezone a site that is primarily earmarked for light manufacturingto business use. It also is asking for variances on required lotsizes, height and landscaping.

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The partnership's traffic study indicates there will be 30% morecars on Route 31 over the next five years, and an increase of 25%on Three Oaks during the same time.

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“This portion of Route 31 has been underdeveloped over theyears, and from talking to city staffers, is a front door to thecommunity that needs some planning,” says Rubloff Three Oaks LLCpartner Tim Schwartz.

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Members of the neighboring Monticello Homeowners Associationindicated a willingness to see the parcel at Crystal Lake'ssouthern doorway developed under current zoning. They also note thecity council recently reaffirmed the site's manufacturingzoning.

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Meijer's senior real estate manager Jeff Middlebrook says hiscompany plans to add to its 150 units, including 10 in Illinois.Meijer's current stores are in Algonquin, Aurora, Bolingbrook,Elgin and Saint Charles. It is building a second outlet inBolingbrook, as well as Hoffman Estates and McHenry. There also areplans to build in Rolling Meadows.

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“Northeast Illinois is one of the primary areas where we'reexpanding,” says Middlebrook, whose company also operates inIndiana, Kentucky, Ohio in addition to its home base.

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However, the Hoffman Estates location has been more acrimonious,as the neighboring village of South Barrington has sued in federalcourt over plans to build a 415,132-sf retail center at the cornerof Barrington Road and Lakewood Boulevard. Meijer's still hopes tobreak ground there in spring.

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Meanwhile, Mercy Health System remains in a holding pattern onplans for its medical facility. “They'll be basically riding on thecoattails of Meijer's,” says Schwartz, in charge of assembling theparcels.

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Also, three restaurants and a financial institutions are plannedfor the eastern portion of the site, closest to the Monticelloneighborhood of single-family homes on .75-acre sites, Schwartzsays. “We haven't begun to market (the sites) yet,” he adds.“They'll probably be a half-dozen banks that'd be interested inbeing here.”

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The 240,000-sf Meijer store at Woodbridge Commons at Randall andBowes roads in Elgin capped Zale Group's nine-year, 350-acremixed-use development. Besides 600 homes, the retail portion of theproject includes a Menard's home improvement store, BlockbusterVideo, Mid-America First Bank, Wendy's and Discount Tire.

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“Woodbridge exemplifies our big-picture development philosophy,”says LeonJoffe, president of Buffalo Grove, IL-based The ZaleGroup. “The homes created demand for the retail center, whichtogether build a sense of community for the residents.”

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