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Dells-like water park unveiled

Hoffman Estates residents may no longer have to look any further than their own community for their next family vacation.

Waterpark H2otels USA LLC presented a proposal to Village Board members on Monday for Illinois' first condo-hotel and indoor water park resort to be built at Prairie Stone Business Park.

Though the village's Planning, Building and Zoning Committee members appeared to have a positive reaction toward the project, the presentation was only a courtesy review, and no action will be taken until the proposal is presented to the Plan Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals. If approved, developers hope to begin construction this year and finish by 2008.

The 525,000-square-foot resort, tentatively named the Sun Island Resort and Conference Center, will be located on the northeast corner of Beverly Road and Interstate 90. It will be adjacent to the future locations of the Sears Centre, an 11,000-seat entertainment venue, and Cabela's, a retail store specializing in outdoor equipment.

Year-round accommodations are included in the design for the resort's water park facility. The 80,000-square-foot indoor and 30,000-square-foot outdoor water parks are planned to feature wave, activity and toddler pools, tube and body slides, a rafting river, mat racers and a water-propelled coaster. There will also be a 20,000-square-foot dry play area including an arcade. The proposed water park would rank among the top seven biggest water parks in the nation, developers said.

The condominium-hotel attached to the water park is proposed to be 12 to 14 stories, with a maximum of 500 rooms. According to Gregory Andre, an attorney from Bell, Boyd and Lloyd representing the project, a condominium-hotel is a condo building with a hotel operator there full-time. Some or all of the rooms will be individually owned, but all similarly furnished and decorated.

Andre cited the new Trump Towers in Chicago as an example of the growing trend of condominium-hotels.

"You're seeing more and more of these as time goes on," he said.

Owners will be able to rent out their condos for a certain period of time, though exact details of the rental program are still undecided.

According to Joseph Buralli, the general managing partner from Waterpark H2otels USA, the idea for a water park hotel originated in 1994 in the Wisconsin Dells. This growing trend is sending many tourists from Illinois to the Wisconsin Dells for their family vacations each year.

"Over the past five years I've studied this phenomenon," he said. "And I've chosen Illinois mainly because of its population."

Buralli estimated there are 1 million families and 800,000 children under the age of 8 in the area that could use the water park hotel. He said the facility would have to work as a hotel first, but the water park would help fill the rooms on the weekends. Concert and athletic events held at the Sears Centre will also help business 130 nights a year.

"We don't want to be the biggest, but we want to be the best," Buralli said. "And we want to come to Hoffman Estates."

WaterPark H2otels USA has partnered with Leopardo Construction, based in Hoffman Estates and VOA Associates Inc., a group of Chicago-based architects. Focus Lodging Group LLC of Columbus, Ohio, will co-develop the project and serve as the hotel's management company.

Scott Somerville of Focus Lodging Group said the water park resort is a new and up and coming concept.

"It's all about families," he said. "There's nothing better than family after family coming into the water park."

Matthew Freeby of Water Technology Inc., an aquatic planning, design and engineering firm also working on the project, explained his goal to create a safe, clean, comfortable, fun and exciting environment.

"(The water parks) are principally geared toward the family market," Freeby said. "Our age groups are 8 months to 80 years old."

He hopes the water park will be used for occasions like family reunions.

"Our job here in Hoffman Estates is to create memories," he said.


Poplar Creek dčjá vu

More than a decade after the music stopped at the Poplar Creek Music Theater in Hoffman Estates, a new, smaller outdoor venue will be built within view of the site of its well-known predecessor.

Scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend, the proposed Prairie Creek Amphitheatre will remain open through September each year. Developers of the 8,900-seat arena anticipate hosting 30 to 40 concerts during the summer months in addition to theatrical productions, charitable dinners and corporate functions.

They hope to have artists from all different genres, including artists like Barenaked Ladies, Dave Matthews Band, Carole King and Kenny Chesney.

Prairie Creek Properties LLC - a collaboration between Jerry Mickelson and Arny Granat, co-founders of Jam Productions Inc., and Michael Reinsdorf and Steven Edelson, managing members of International Facilities Group, L.L.C. - will develop and operate the new arena.

"We're very excited to have the opportunity to build something out here, especially something that follows the legacy of Poplar Creek, one of the best amphitheaters ever built in this country," Mickelson told village officials at Monday's meeting of the Planning, Building and Zoning Committee.

Though the project was presented for courtesy review only and will have to go before the Plan Commission for approval, it was received positively among village officials.

"Looking at the renderings, it brings back very vivid memories of Poplar Creek because it looks so similar," Trustee Rodney Rusakiewicz said.

The open-air arena will be approximately one-third the size of Poplar Creek. It will not have a lawn, and all of the seats will be enclosed by a 70-foot roof. There will be 7,260 fixed seats and 1,080 removable seats.

Some of the structures will be permanent, including a box office, security building and restrooms. Concessions and VIP and hospitality tent structures will be up during the concert season only.

It is a relatively small facility compared to other outdoor arenas like Alpine Valley in Wisconsin and the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park which can each hold up to 30,000 people.

The venue will be located in Prairie Stone Business Park between the proposed indoor waterpark hotel and the Sears Centre Arena, scheduled to open Oct. 26. The Sears Centre and Prairie Creek will share a parking lot, and events will be scheduled accordingly to avoid conflicts.

"It's good to see people working together on projects," Trustee Karen Mills said. "That's the best part of it."


Autumn Woods

Developer under fire from Elgin, Cook

Posted Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Representatives for Kenar LLC haven’t made any friends at Elgin city hall — not with the staff, not with the council members.

And now, not with Cook County authorities, either.

Despite warnings from city staffers, the development company went to the city council in December with plans to build 76 duplex units on 16 acres of unincorporated land along Summit Street in unincorporated Cook County.

The proposal failed to win annexation approval at the meeting and City Manager Femi Folarin issued a strong warning to the company for taking its chances with the council rather than heeding the staff’s suggestions.

Weeks later, the company removed 25 trees from the site, saying the move was simply an act of housecleaning.

Residents in the area thought otherwise and lodged complaints with the Cook County Building and Zoning Commissioner, who has since issued two citations against the company for violating county ordinances.

The first violation accuses the developer of removing about 25 trees. The second charges that the company may have made some changes to the topography of the land.

“Most developers are aware that they need to get some type of approval before they start doing these types of changes,” said Don Wlodarski, Cook County Building and Zoning Commissioner. “Most of the time it’s just done.”

Calls for this story to the development company were not returned.

As part of their original plan, Kenar included a tree survey as required by the city, which included keeping 56 trees. Kenar representatives have previously said that those trees remain and only those that did not meet the city’s survey standard — which is based on trunk size — were removed to create better visibility for a vacant house on the property.

But the removal of any trees in Cook County must be approved, Wlodarski said.

The county’s complaints now are in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s hands. A court date will be scheduled within the next few weeks.

The company could face fines of $200 per day once a ruling is made. In the past, those who violate the county’s procedure have been asked to replant trees, Wlodarski said.

Normally, the county allows homeowners and developers to remove trees if they are diseased, pose a threat to public safety or are part of an approved plan.

“If they showed us how would they would develop this piece of property and which trees had to be removed to make way for a house, that’s also permitted,” Wlodarski said. “But we haven’t received anything from this developer with any type of plan.”

News that county officials have acted on the violations pleased Elgin Councilman David Kaptain.

“It seems like too big of a coincidence to me that it happened all at once,” Kaptain said of the timing of the tree removal. “I take it as a slap in the face.”


Autumn Woods

Council slams plan for homes

On the east side of Elgin: Developer already was told enough townhomes there Wednesday's vote was not the first time council members have been critical of plans to build townhomes in the area.

By Nathaniel Zimmer

Staff Writer

ELGIN — Officials went out of their way at Wednesday's city council meeting to rap the knuckles of a developer hoping to build duplexes on the far-east side, saying they had made it crystal clear they want single-family homes on the site.

More than a year ago, Schaumburg-based Kenar LLC proposed putting 110 townhomes on 16 acres east of Berner Drive and Summit Street. But council members who believe the east side has enough townhomes told the developer the plan likely would be rejected unless it featured single-family homes. City staffers told Kenar the same thing.

Nevertheless, Kenar returned Wednesday with a proposal for 38 two-unit buildings designed to appeal to empty nesters. Prices per unit were to have started at about $350,000.

Annoyed council members piled on in response before rejecting the plan 5-0, with Mayor Ed Schock and Councilman Juan Figueroa absent.

On Thursday, however, Schock said he believes the council ought to rethink its opposition to east-side townhomes. He argued high-priced, high-quality townhomes can be good for the city, particularly in cases where small parcels make single-family subdivisions impractical.

  'We sent a very clear message'

But on Wednesday, opposition to Kenar's plans was the rule.

"We sent a very clear message," Councilman Thomas Sandor said, noting that he had met with the developer for several hours to discuss the project. "As far as I'm concerned, it's DOA."

Councilman John Walters concurred.

"I think all along you've known we support single-family," he said.

Even City Manager Femi Folarin took a swipe at the developer. It is highly unusual for staffers to express an opinion about a proposal during a council meeting.

"I dislike developers hearing what staff has to say and ignoring it," Folarin said.

Kenar representatives made halting attempts to defend their project before indicating they would return with a plan for single-family homes.

That failed to placate Sandor, who said nothing less than the best would earn his vote.

"You better come back with something not good, but great," he said.

  Mayor open to plan

Schock said some city residents fail to realize that new east-side townhomes tend to be expensive compared to existing single-family homes. And he noted that townhomes tend to attract childless buyers who pay taxes to local schools but produce no students.

The 1,800-square-foot townhomes in Kenar's Princeton West subdivision start at $268,000. Single-family homes in the same project start at about $350,000. The median home price for Elgin as a whole as of last year was $217,000, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors.

Princeton West is located at Toastmaster Drive and Shoe Factory Road on Elgin's northeast side. The subdivision will feature 162 townhomes and 86 single-family homes when completed. The council approved the project some two years ago, prior to its change of heart regarding townhomes.

Kenar — which on its Web site states it has built more than 6,000 homes in the Chicago area — had predicted each unit in the Summit Street duplexes could fetch as much as $400,000.

After the meeting, Sandor said he doubted the homes could command prices that high.

Schock, by contrast, noted many residents did not believe there would be buyers for the townhomes and condominiums that are rising in the city's downtown. The townhomes have been selling for between $250,000 and $350,000.

While Folarin and council members at Wednesday's meeting said Kenar should have known better than to bring forward a plan for anything other than single-family homes, Schock said the developer's confusion was understandable.

"I'm confused myself," he said. "I didn't think the council made a directive to staff not to bring any more townhomes ... Poor Kenar, I think, is caught in the middle."


  Enough east-side townhomes

The council's objections had less to do with the site of Kenar's proposal than with a general conviction that Elgin needs more single-family homes on the east side, according to Councilman Robert Gilliam.

"We feel like we've done enough townhomes on the east side," he said. "It's not just that location."


Tortolla Woods

Developer may be required to move turtles

By Christine Byers
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A developer may have to move turtles before dirt at a proposed Elgin subdivision site.

The city council will consider tonight Pasquinelli and Portrait Homes’ Tortolla Woods project, which would put about 80 townhouses on 25 acres along Summit Street near Rohrsen Road on the city’s far east side. The planning commission voted in March against the plan after Elgin residents, including Mike Cloonan, argued the wetland there was of high quality.

Since then, Cloonan found and photographed Blandings turtles - a threatened species in Illinois - on the site, prompting city officials, the developer and environmental agencies to meet Monday to decide the best way to proceed with the project.

A Blandings turtle was discovered near a proposed Walgreens site in Lake in the Hills in 2001. Since then, developers there incorporated special nesting sites into the plan, but the project has yet to begin.

Illinois Department of Natural Resource representatives said the turtles must be removed from the Elgin site if the project is going to move forward.

First, the developer must apply for permits to remove the animals and provide another suitable site to place them. That process can take days or months, said Gail Simpson, the agency’s spokeswoman.

"It’s a variable process," she said.

Whatever the case, Elgin ordinances require the developer to obey the agency’s requirements, said Sue Olafson, city spokeswoman.

"It’s our understanding it won’t hold up the project tremendously," Olafson said.

Phone calls to the developer have not been returned.

Should the developer get the needed permits, moving the turtles isn’t necessarily the best answer either, said Michael Redmer, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist/herbatologist who attended Monday’s meeting as a consultant.

"There is not a lot known about what happens to relocated Blandings turtles," said Redmar, who suggested radio transmitters be put on the animals once they’re moved to track their progress.

Redmar said he expects to see many more cases like this pop up as more unexplored land is slated for development.

"I don’t know that I sympathize with Pasquinelli, but I understand the uncertainty of what this means," Redmar said. "These species didn’t envision 10 years ago that they’d get bottled in and that Pasquinelli would come along later and build a development there."

Cloonan said he’s glad the city now knows about the animals. He hopes the city council tonight follows the planning commission’s recommendation.

"Nobody thinks this is a good idea except the developer himself," Cloonan said. "No one else is happy about it." Especially the turtle, he said.


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