A five-story, 100-unit apartment building is under construction in downtown Fox River Grove as part of a larger plan to develop the area with more residents, businesses and maybe a hotel.
A residential structure of this scale has not been seen in the village before, Village Administrator Derek Soderholm said.
But while village officials say this new development will bring new residents to Fox River Grove, leading to additional sales tax revenue and new businesses, neighbors on Concord Avenue, behind the proposed apartments, have a number of concerns.
The apartment building is part of a sprawling redevelopment proposal that spans about 46 acres on both sides of Route 14 as it nears the Fox River. The overall proposal includes two additional apartment structures with 200 more units, retail on the other side of Route 14 and, eventually, a possible hotel and convention center.
The first phase, which includes all three apartment buildings, totaling 300 units, was approved in 2015 by the Village Board and a redevelopment agreement that would enable developers to recoup some of their costs using tax increment financing, or TIF, district dollars was approved in 2017.
Work had been on track to begin in fall 2017, but the project stalled as the developers worked to secure financing.
Grove Residences LLC bought the parcel at 401 Algonquin Road in 2021, McHenry County records show. A demolition permit was issued in August. In November, a permit allowing the construction of footings for the building and foundation walls – but nothing else – was approved, Soderholm said.
The plan is for two floors of indoor garage parking below ground and five floors of apartments, each floor with 20 units. Once drawing, engineering, landscape and architectural plans are finalized, developers can proceed with requesting a full building permit.
But, Soderholm said, “we’re not quite there yet.”
“The stormwater aspects and everything are still being reviewed,” Soderholm said.
Grove Residences LLC expects to submit its final plans to the village for review “very soon,” within the next month or two so that work can begin in the spring, said Kirk Rustman, a representative for the development company. The first apartment building would take about a year to complete, which means residents could be moving in as soon as late 2022.
The goal is to immediately move on to the next phases, including a retail piece across Route 14 that’s already being considered, Rustman said. The company is in talks with three possible tenants, all restaurants, which could be named publicly as soon as the fall.
The village has approved the necessary zoning and special use permits for only the apartment buildings, Soderholm said, which means any other development could need to go through the village’s zoning process with public hearings before the Village Board and the Planning and Zoning Commission.
This level of development can mean a “total revitalization” of Fox River Grove’s downtown, Rustman said. Transit-oriented development in other communities along Metra commuter lines have been successful in drawing in residents and building up retail and commercial, Rustman said.
However, residents along Concord Avenue, after observing the demolition of the site, have had several concerns, which Dan Palmer, who lives just feet away from the Grove Residences property, detailed in a letter to the village on Dec. 19. Nine other residents also signed onto the letter.
One major grievance neighbors have is what they consider a lack of privacy because of the close proximity of the development to the neighborhood’s property lot lines.
A “mass influx” of residences, once the Grove Residences opens its doors, is another issue, the neighbors said. A security fence or barrier is “essential” to preserve a sense of safety and security in the neighborhood, they said.
“It was always obvious that the Neighborhood’s privacy would be stripped away upon the completion of the Grove Residences building, but nobody could have imagined that it would be to this extent,” according to the letter. “Several Neighborhood property owners have had the trees torn down between the properties, leaving zero privacy behind. What was once a quiet street with private backyard settings is now preparing to welcome 300-400+ new neighbors staring in to their yards.”
The Concord Avenue neighbors have made three requests: a security fence that spans the entire southern border of the Grove Residence property line, that is no shorter than 15 feet, and that is set in concrete and permanent in nature; a retaining wall; and the planting of mature trees along the southern property line of the Grove Residences site.
The proposed apartment building will have a negative impact on the neighborhood, Palmer told the Northwest Herald.
“Everyone’s just going to be looking directly into my kitchen and backyard,” Palmer said. “There’s no more privacy.”
The village is working with Grove Residence to install a privacy-style fence, Solderholm told the Northwest Herald.
“Nothing finalized at this point, but the intent is that there will be a fence of some sort between the property to the rear,” Soderholm said.
There also will be trees planted on the rear side of the building, likely along the building on the fence area, he said.
Rustman said he’s told the neighbors Grove Residence wants to be a good neighbor and have a good relationship with them. The company currently is working on the landscape plans and expects to replace the pre-existing fence with a 6-foot high one, the maximum allowed under village ordinance.
The development as proposed meets the setback and zoning requirements approved by the Village Board, but village officials are taking the neighbors’ concerns under consideration and working to alleviate them, Soderholm said.
“We just want to make sure everything’s addressed and done properly, not just let them get away with whatever they want to do,” said William Strohl, who lives at and helps his father, Mike Strohl, take care of the Bettendorf Castle at 418 Concord Ave.
He said he hasn’t gotten much information on the development, even when he’s reached out to the village.
“The building is so big and it’s just, it’s so tall that you’re not going to get all the privacy you need,” William Strohl said.
Soderholm said the village is happy to provide information and documents to residents if they have it.
“If residents have questions, we’re happy to answer them,” Soderholm said. “We continually are available to the public to answer their questions.”