New Project Proposed for Milwaukee and Deerfield in Buffalo Grove

The leaders of Buffalo Grove have taken their first look at what could become the main entrance from the outside world into the village.

And they told the designers to try something else.

"This property is a gem," said Village Board member Joanne Johnson, but who told a collection of developers that their first draft looked a bit flat. "There is nothing extraordinarily unique about this plan."

For years, the Village Board has discussed the future of the two empty fields on the northwest and southwest corners of the Milwaukee Avenue and Deerfield Parkway intersection. On Monday, officials from a collection of building firms came forward with a proposal.

The groups gave a joint presentation about building a traditional, suburban development, split between the two properties, featuring retail, restaurants and upscale apartments. By the presentation's conclusion, several trustees asked the builders to think bigger, but the builders said they were already thinking about as big as the economic circumstances permitted.

"There's certain things that both the board and the developers would like to see that aren't feasible," said Larry Freedman, an attorney representing the developers.

The discussion revolved around what is commonly known as Berenesa Plaza, the 24-acre collection of three land parcels — two on the southwest corner of Milwaukee and Deerfield, the largest taking up the northwest corner. Currently home to just wetlands and weeds, the intersection is a Pace bus stop with little on either side of Deerfield Parkway.

Two development firms want to change that, though: the Hanover Company, which would build about 275 apartments, and Buffalo Grove's Shorewood Development Group, which would lead the retail side.

Louis Schriber III, CEO of Shorewood, mentioned several major firms that he said his company was already in talks with, including Starbucks and Texas Roadhouse. He said he envisioned numerous quick-serve chain restaurants, an urgent care clinic, 40,000 square feet of retailers that will remain relevant in the online-shopping age — such as a mattress store — a bank, and a 28,000-square-foot grocery store as the anchor of the six-acre southwest portion.

David Ott, a development partner with Hanover, spoke of apartments ranging from 500 to 1,500 square feet, marketed toward millennials and empty-nesters, with a variety of rents that average around $1,900 per month. Those would be on the northwest parcel, in four-story buildings, some with single-car garages.

Traffic counts in that area suggest that it could support something big: Illinois Department of Transportation records show an average of more than 15,000 vehicles moving east and west on Deerfield daily, and more than 33,000 going up and down Milwaukee.

Three of the intersection's four corners are presently barren. The northeast corner, in Riverwoods, is home to a strip mall anchored by the Panera Bread at 2001 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Schriber described for the trustees his hope to poach some existing businesses out of some existing developments nearby. He told them that he sees "the Panera jumping across the street," and occupants of Lincolnshire's CityPark shopping center moving 1.3 miles south to distance themselves a bit from similar stores in Vernon Hills.

"This piece has been on your radar for a long time," said Freedman, adding that the builders understood what the board had been waiting for since it first annexed the land in 1990.

The trustees said the builders did not, and advised them to consider taller apartment buildings and, for food, a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse or something else high-end instead of suburban. Village President Beverly Sussman fretted about the presence of apartments, of any volume and any price range.

"Won't that make it very transient?" she asked.

The site has hindrances. Deerfield Parkway constricts from two lanes to one between Milwaukee Avenue and Interstate 94, creating a choke point.

Some of the acreage carries the "wetlands" designation, according to a village memo, and the Des Plaines River, about half a mile to the east, floods the area every few years.

A memo from Shorewood to the board noted that the Army Corps of Engineers, Lake County Stormwater Management Commission and others have some regulatory authority. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has no records of cleanliness violations on either side of the property in the past three years.

At the talk's end, the board agreed to send the layout on to Village Hall's planning commission for, as trustee Les Ottenheimer termed it, "a very thorough review."

Trustee Steve Trilling cautioned the builders to be open to new ideas.

"This is the gateway to our village, and I want you to recognize that," he said. "We want something that's a true destination. I invite you, and I challenge you, to think of things that will make this a destination."