The Barrington Village Board approved a recommendation from the Plan Commission for a mixed-used retail and office development to be built at Hough and Main Streets.
The vote didn’t come without several controversial opinions from the public. Many addressed the board to say Barrington is oversaturated with vacant office space, and the project would do better with residential units instead.
The board heard from many existing building owners who expressed their fears that the Evanston based Arthur Hill & Co. developer will poach tenants away from them. Some say since the developer didn’t have to pay for his land, only the buildings, he will be able to slash rent costs for tenants, offering a more desirable space.
Village President Karen Darch said current businesses in the TIF District are only allowed to move to a new space if they are expanding.
The community and board also heard from developer Bruce Reid with Arthur Hill & Co. who defended his decision to put office and retail on the busy corner.
“We saw the opportunity for new office clients to customize in a space that isn’t always feasible in an existing building,” Reid said. “Although over this process we’ve heard to the contrary, but we saw relatively little competition for what we had in mind…as best we can tell, there is no other contiguous 9,000 square feet in downtown Barrington and there’s only one in Barrington.”
What Arthur Hill & Co. has proposed is one L-shaped building with 18,000-square-feet of retail space on the ground level, with office space on the second floor. There is a possibility of a third level to be added to this building depending on the amount of interest from potential renters. A second single story building with retail space will also be built, with public parking behind the structures.
Reid went on to say why he feels residential space would not be suitable for the Hough/Main corner.
“Rental residential we think needs to be 60-70 units in a minimum. At 70 units over the retail, we’d have a building that’s well more than double the size of this building, that’s without addressing the parking issue,” he said.
The risk involved with building rental units is also much higher than office space, Reid explained. Office tenants sign contracts in advance so the developer knows how much vacancy to expect. This isn’t the case for rental space, where tenants typically sign leases right before moving in.
Board members don’t deny the need and want for residential space in Barrington, but agree that the Hough Main project isn’t right for that type of development.
“I actually find it quite ironic that I’m the one that’s supporting this project with commercial on the second floor in the sense that I’ve been a big proponent of residential in the downtown and I believe in residential in the downtown, but it’s a point and time,” Trustee Beth Raseman said. “There’s other locations where I think residential will probably be built in the next few years and I actually really hope that they are, but at this point in time, I really feel like this is the right development for this corner.”