Article Published by Chicago Tribune, Aurora-Beacon News | View Article
Author: Steve Lord
Construction could begin this spring on a major apartment development at Fox Valley Mall if the Aurora City Council gives its approval of the plan.
The council is set to vote Tuesday on the final plan for 304 apartments in three, three-story buildings at the mall in what would be a major redevelopment of the property.
“This will modernize the mall campus as it goes into its mixed-use future,” said Jon Meshel, senior vice president of development for Centennial Real Estate, the predominant owner of the mall. “The vision is consistent with the city’s vision for the Route 59 corridor.”
Work has already begun with the tearing down of the former Sears store, one of the first and biggest anchors at the mall since it was built in the 1970s. The new development will take place in what is now a parking lot in front of where the Sears store used to be, the front door of the mall off of Route 59, the east entrance.
Aldermen already approved a special use, preliminary plan and final plat for the about 11-acre site. The City Council approved the concept for the redevelopment last fall.
The breakdown of the housing will be 26 studios, 193 one-bedroom and 85 two-bedroom units. The apartments will range in size from 657 square feet to 1,382 square feet.
The development also will include some commercial development, social lounges, entertainment areas, game rooms, parks and a fitness center.
Representatives of both Centennial and Atlantic Residential, a management and marketing firm that would manage the residential property, have touted the development as being on the leading edge of the national trend of incorporating housing into traditional retail and commercial uses. The development will eventually be a live, work, play environment seen in more urban settings, developers said.
During discussions at recent City Council committee meetings, aldermen said architects Torti Gallas and Partners have done a good job of refining the design of the apartment buildings.
In looking at renderings last fall, some aldermen were afraid the buildings would look too monotonous, even saying it had a “barracks-like” effect. But the architects said that would be refined, and aldermen praised the latest look.
“It’s really a great step,” said Ald. Sherman Jenkins, at-large. “There’s a more upscale flavor.”
Ald. Robert O’Connor, at large, added the designers “have made it very attractive.”
In the past, Jenkins also said he was concerned about all the housing being rental units, instead of owner-occupied. But mall and city officials pointed out that this is just the beginning of a massive overhaul of the mall property, and that future development could include condos and townhouses.
“This is just phase one,” said Alex Alexandrou, the city’s chief management officer. “There’s more to come. Beyond doing this for the mall, this is the new front door to the city of Aurora.”
Ald. Michael Saville, 6th Ward, said the mall has long been a good part of the city.
“We’ve been very proud of the Fox Valley Mall since it opened in the 1970s,” he said. “We want it to succeed.”