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North Riverside took another step toward making Costco a reality at the corner of 26th Street and Harlem Avenue on Thursday night when both its Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously recommended approval of three petitions by the property's developer.
In addition to rezoning the property to permit retail uses and allowing it to be subdivided, the commissions also gave their blessing to creating a planned development district for the project, which will significantly streamline the approval process.
In fact, the planned development agreement, written jointly by the developer and the village, could be approved by the village board in November. The ordinance creating the planned development district may get a first reading as early as Nov. 5, the board's next meeting.
The planned development agreement would govern the development of the nearly 20-acre parcel and would include design guidelines and standards.
Having such a document in place will be critical if Monroe Investment Partners, which owns the property, is to meet what looks to be a very tight timeline for completion of the development.
Tom Brashler, a partner and spokesman for Monroe Investment Partners, told North Riverside officials Thursday night that the plan is for his company to sell 16 acres of the property to Costco at the end of February 2013. That would leave just over three acres of property to be developed as outlots along Harlem Avenue.
As soon as the property is sold, said Brashler, the Edward Don warehouse building will be demolished. The site is to be cleared by July 1, at which time Costco would begin to build a new 150,000-square-foot warehouse on the western half of the property.
Construction of the warehouse is expected to take 3-4 months, and Costco is scheduled to open in October or November 2013.
A storm-water retention pond is slated to be located behind the Costco warehouse. The four outlots along Harlem Avenue will be developed independently of Costco, but design standards for those outlots will be part of the planned development agreement passed by the village board.
According to Brashler, no tenants have been specifically identified for those outlots yet, but a preliminary site plan, given to the village Thursday, shows that the developers are looking to attract a wide variety of uses - anything from restaurants to banks to a gas station. At least one of the outlots is identified as potentially housing more than one tenant.
Each of the outlots would have its own parking area and drive aisles would separate outlot tenants from one another.
The plan did not generate many questions from either village commission at Thursday's meeting, though the subject of potential traffic congestion did come up.
The main access to the development will be from 26th Street, where two entry/exit driveways are planned. There is a separate entry/exit drive along Harlem Avenue. However, that will serve as an entry and exit for southbound Harlem Avenue motorists only.
Developers, however, are working to negotiate other entry points to the development with neighboring property owners. North Riverside has already given preliminary approval for a drive that would connect the Costco site with the North Riverside Park Mall along the northern edge of the property, near the water tower. Monroe Investment Partners is working on getting approval from the mall at this time.
The unused north/south railroad spur line separating the two sites is slated to be removed. Harvey Ahitow, the general manager of the North Riverside Park Mall, told the Landmark last week that the federal Surface Transportation Board has cleared the tracks for removal by the Canadian National Railroad.
Monroe Investment Partners is also seeking an OK from the owner of the North Riverside Plaza property immediately north of the proposed Costco site to connect the two properties via a drive off the Famous Dave's parking lot.
Two Riverside residents who live on Byrd Road expressed concerns about the effect of lighting at night, about traffic and about efforts by developers to screen the shopping center from view.
Ted Johnson, representing the architectural firm hired by Costco, said that the lighting is designed not to spill south of 26th Street and that a variety of trees and shrubs will be planted along that street to help screen the property.
Johnson also downplayed the traffic impact, saying that Costco's peak shopping hours are between noon and 2 p.m., which won't affect the morning or evening rush hours.