Woodstock gives another thumbs-up for Die Cast site project

Plan calls for about 370 living units, retail and restaurant space across four buildings

The city of Woodstock recently heard three different proposals to revitalize the old Die Cast site in its downtown. The City Council discussed the proposals further at its Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, meeting.

The plan to fill Woodstock’s long-vacant Die Cast site passed another milestone this week.

Woodstock’s City Council voted unanimously Tuesday for a special-use permit to allow for a preliminary plan for Chicago Hubs Realty’s proposed project at the Die Cast site, meaning more approval – as well as more trips to the city’s Plan Commission and City Council – will be required before the plan can break ground.

Still, the vote marked another time the City Council has shown support for the project, and it comes about two months after the city’s Plan Commission voted 4-1 against recommending that the project move forward.

The project is slated to be completed in three phases. The first phase will include senior living, followed by assisted living and memory care in phase two. The plan is for those first two phases to pay for the third, which will wrap up with a multifamily mixed-use concept and a parking garage.

In total, the plan includes four buildings with about 370 living units, as well as 15,000 square feet for retail and 10,000 square feet for restaurants. It will have more than 500 parking spaces with the help of the parking garage, as well as public and private open spaces, and the potential for an amphitheater.

In the lead-up to the vote Tuesday, Mayor Mike Turner said at the meeting that he thought the project – slated to go on the west side of Clay Street and north of Church Street – fit well in the area and with Woodstock’s long-term goals. He called it an “economic engine inside the city” that “checks all the boxes.”

“This parcel has been empty for multiple decades,” Turner said. “I have a long list of reasons I like this proposal.”

I think it really enhances Woodstock. It helps make Woodstock more welcoming and affordable regardless of age and physical ability.”

—  Woodstock resident and Plan Commissioner Jackie Speciale on the Die Cast site proposal

Other council members, including Gordie Tebo and Darrin Flynn, said they liked the plan as well.

“It’s the right time, and it’s the right project,” Tebo said. “So I’m all for it.”

Before voting, the council heard a presentation from WellQuest Living CEO Steve Sandholtz, who is a leader on the project. Sandholtz gave a brief overview of the project and detailed how some of the concerns of the Plan Commission – which included noise, safety and traffic – were being met.

To help alleviate some of those concerns, updates to the development call for a retaining wall and fence along the train tracks and additional parking spaces.

Sandholtz also made the case that the development will increase traffic, but because of the number of seniors the space calls for, traffic and stress on other community resources won’t be as significant as another potential project in the area.

Not many residents spoke on the issue, but those who did either were supportive or voiced concerns about things to keep in mind when building out, such as cutting off access to certain businesses with the project.

Jackie Speciale, one of Woodstock’s plan commissioners who voted against recommending the project in April, said at the meeting that she now is supportive of the project because of the updates.

“I think it really enhances Woodstock,” she said. “It helps make Woodstock more welcoming and affordable, regardless of age and physical ability.”

Since it was initially proposed, officials have said that the project could take about three years to build out. Before construction can begin, the project’s individual parts will need to go back through the Plan Commission and then receive final approval from the City Council.

After hosting a series of warehouses until they were torn down in the 1990s, the Die Cast site has sat mostly vacant. In the mid-2000s, plans were made and started to build townhouses in the area, but the plan fell through before it could be completed because of the 2008 financial crisis.

In 2020, the city bought the 8-acre property, and in late 2022, it heard three proposals for the site. Out of those, officials chose to go with Chicago Hubs Realty.