After a long wait, Woodstock has taken the first of many steps toward filling its old Die Cast site downtown.
The site, which sits on the west side of Clay Street north of Church Street and has sat mostly vacant for a quarter century since the Illinois Auto-Lite auto parts factory was shut down in the 1990s, could eventually be taken over by a company looking to build senior living, commercial space and an amphitheater.
The Woodstock City Council discussed the project at its meeting Tuesday, along with a couple of other ideas presented to the body earlier this month, and came to a general consensus to move forward with a development pitched by Chicago Hubs Realty.
The decision, though, is far from final and was filled with caveats.
The largest one includes the possibility to split the area and allow a couple of developers to take over the space, which will be something discussed in the coming weeks and months.
Mayor Mike Turner described Tuesday’s discussion as the city deciding “who we want to date.” Before anything becomes final, the city will need to approve a development agreement, which would come in 2023.
Chicago Hubs Realty pitched the site hosting nearly 400 living units and roughly 25,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, according to their proposal from earlier this month.
An assisted living and memory care facility, pending its success, would help fund further steps of the project. Also proposed was an affordable senior living building and a five-story multi-family building with 150 units. It would also include a parking garage.
Company officials estimated the project could create roughly 150 jobs and could be completed between fall 2025 and spring 2026, city material states.
The affordable housing component could be funded using tax credits and money from the county courtesy of the American Rescue Plan Act, according to the company’s presentation. It would also be the first thing to be constructed based on the presentation.
Whether the project could actually be completed was the factor council members said was the most important, along with economic impact. Council member Bob Seegers said he thought Chicago Hubs Realty was the best overall for meeting those goals.
“The challenges facing [the economic environment] are real,” Seegers said.
Council member Lisa Lohmeyer said she felt Chicago Hubs Realty was the most confident in its timeline and ability to finish on budget. She is also supportive of assisted living, she said. Council member Darrin Flynn agreed with the assisted living piece, saying it brings in others to visit the city.
The other two projects, which, along with Chicago Hubs Realty, were pitched at a Nov. 4 meeting, included a 46-unit apartment complex by PanCor Construction and a $157 million spread by Hoffman Planning, Design and Construction Inc. Hoffman pitched building a hotel, a series of apartment buildings and two different parks.
One caveat a few council members said was they liked the designs pitched by PanCor and were hoping to push Chicago Hubs Realty for a better look. Council member Wendy Piersall said that has proven in the past to be one of the most important things to the community.
“The neighborhood was very concerned with the looks of what was going to be built there,” she said. “We got hundreds of emails.”
Council member Gordie Tebo was the lone council member whose first choice was not Chicago Hubs Realty. He said Woodstock needed a hotel, particularly because of other developments going on in the downtown, including the Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House.
“I think that’s one of the top things,” he said. “We’ve been talking about it for years.”
Tebo also proposed splitting the space, which other council members were open to. Either way, Turner stressed that even if a company doesn’t end up helping develop the former Die Cast spot, the city was interested in working with them at other sites in the city.
“I was impressed with all three of them,” Turner said.
The Die Cast site – which early in its history, housed a series of factories that made typewriters before it made auto parts – sits in the city’s downtown, and, since the building was torn down in the 1990s, has sat mostly vacant.
Part of the site is home to a series of townhouses. A plan in the mid-2000s called for more townhouses to be built, but the 2008 financial crisis caused the plans to fall through.
In 2020, the city bought the property, totaling a little more than eight acres. Later that year, they moved forward with a proposal by PanCor to build an apartment complex with more than 100 units. That has since evolved into the 46-unit project they are now proposing, City Manager Roscoe Stelford said.
Woodstock’s City Council is expected to vote on a resolution granting site control to one or two of the companies at its Dec. 20 meeting. The resolution will last for six months, and the company would start finalizing its design and financing, city material states.