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

The plans for a 24-hour, 195,714-sf Meijer’s store as well as a medical center and three restaurants got a chilly reception from about 50 neighbors at a recent zoning board of appeals public meeting. Meijer’s officials received a postponement of a scheduled plan commission hearing, pushing consideration by the city council in this far northwest suburb into November.

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

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

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

Members of the neighboring Monticello Homeowners Association indicated a willingness to see the parcel at Crystal Lake’s southern doorway developed under current zoning. They also note the city council recently reaffirmed the site’s manufacturing zoning.

Meijer’s senior real estate manager Jeff Middlebrook says his company 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 in Bolingbrook, as well as Hoffman Estates and McHenry. There also are plans to build in Rolling Meadows.

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

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

Meanwhile, Mercy Health System remains in a holding pattern on plans for its medical facility. “They’ll be basically riding on the coattails of Meijer’s,” says Schwartz, in charge of assembling the parcels.

Also, three restaurants and a financial institutions are planned for the eastern portion of the site, closest to the Monticello neighborhood of single-family homes on .75-acre sites, Schwartz says. “We haven’t begun to market (the sites) yet,” he adds. “They’ll probably be a half-dozen banks that’d be interested in being here.”

The 240,000-sf Meijer store at Woodbridge Commons at Randall and Bowes roads in Elgin capped Zale Group’s nine-year, 350-acre mixed-use development. Besides 600 homes, the retail portion of the project includes a Menard’s home improvement store, Blockbuster Video, Mid-America First Bank, Wendy’s and Discount Tire.

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

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