Downtown TIF proposal sparks debate in Barrington
Barrington architect Ron Flubacker and Paul Wells, the owner of ReMax in Barrington, are concerned about the size and uses proposed in the downtown redevelopment in the TIF District at Main and Hough. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media.
Updated: January 7, 2013 6:40AM
BARRINGTON — With the proposed downtown Barrington redevelopment set for 2013, debate is heating up among taxpayers about the viability and aesthetics of the major project.
Barrington Village Center, a project of Envision Reality, would bring 55,000 square feet of retail and office space to the center of downtown at the intersection of Hough and Main streets. While some residents have hailed the possible development for its potential to bring in new businesses, others maintain it could be detrimental on several levels.
Paul Wells, owner of ReMax Realty on Northwest Highway, said he is not so much against the development itself, but how it’s planned to be used. Wells argues that mixing residential property into the development would make more sense because the residential market is rebounding quicker than the commercial market.
“The dilemma is that I think the Village wants to go back to what things were,” said Wells, adding that he thinks the commercial market may never recover to its previous state.
“Having more residential development is going to bring people downtown and in turn support businesses there,” he continued. “The only way to make it viable and successful in the long run is to combine the two.”
Village Trustee Tim Roberts, however, said he supports the existing proposal’s focus on commercial development. He cited the development of the Cook Street Plaza between 2000 and 2005.
“The impact of Cook Street Plaza was huge,” Roberts said. “You have to keep moving forward.”
Barrington Village President Karen Darch likened the redevelopment of Hough and Main to an extension of ongoing projects that started with Cook Street Plaza.
“It’s a good, compatible use for the space,” said Darch, who described Hough and Main as a corner with extreme potential. “It supports the vitality of downtown.”
Darch also said the public parking offered by the proposed development would help business at nearby restaurants and the Catlow Theater.
Ronald Flubacker, a Barrington architect who opposes the project, said the most significant issue he has with the proposal is the height, which he estimates to be about 40 feet.
“We don’t have anything that’s nearly that size in the immediate area,” Flubacker said. “It’s just an overwhelming height and mass.”
Roberts disagreed. He said the proposed Barrington Village Center would fit in with other buildings in downtown Barrington.
“Right now, it’s a two- to three-story development that’s in character with the rest of the town,” Roberts said. “I think it will fit in very nicely.”
Flubacker said he also is against the office space component of the project because of its potential to bring heavier traffic to the area at rush hours. He suggested the inclusion of rental properties, which are currently sparse in Barrington.
“With the market now and how many more people are renting, I think there’s more of a market now than ever before,” Flubacker said.
When asked about the prospect for rental units, Roberts said the developers never had that in mind when it came to this project.
“Rentals were never really part of the equation,” he said, adding that condos and townhouses also were seen as challenges in the market in recent years.
Darch added that a residential component could create other issues. In order for residential to be profitable, she said the site would have to be more intensely developed, with could mean more floors.
“I hope we end up with a lovely project that will help our town,” Darch said. “I think we’re representing the majority of our residents.”
Developers plan to invest between $10 million and $12 million to build the Village Center, depending on the duration of project, village officials reported.
The project is estimated to cost Barrington about $3.5 million, the cost to lease 35 percent of the land.