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Field of dreams?

Gaggin' in the Grove: Just because something is built, doesn't mean they will come. This does not apply to only baseball, but instant downtowns as well.

I love baseball.

And being a Cubs fan I did not see much this season.  Like none.

So as a way to enjoy America’s pastime, I decided to watch one of my favorite movies, “Field of Dreams.”

So stretched out in the old Lazy Boy, I was hoping to see Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Amy Madigan and a litany of actors playing some of baseball immortals.

But darn it all, just like the Cubs, the movie wasn’t performing.

Every time I turned it on, I ended up at crmproperties.com.  Instead of cornstalks, I saw glistening strip centers.

I was mystified.

And then, even without the help of permanent or replacement officials, after further review, I finally figured it out.  The fine folks at CRM Properties are the ones who want to leave their indelible mark on Buffalo Grove.  Like Costner, they must believe that “if you build it, they will come.”

And so, what do they do?  They put together a plan for a massive downtown for Buffalo Grove, which they presented at the Aug. 6 Village Board meeting.  So why blog about it now? A couple of reasons.  For one, on Aug. 6 I was enjoying the fine shopping and dining of Paris.  Secondly, I wanted to take a better look at what was being proposed.  And finally, after two months, some folks are voicing their concern.

And who can blame them?  There’s no doubt that the village lacks a strong retail climate.  A smattering of strip centers makes up the village’s retail climate.  There are, not just in Town Center, but other strip centers, waves of empty stores.

A 65-acre complex with eight- and 10-story buildings may glisten, but will it really solve the problem?  Don’t count on it.  CRM Properties has several high-end developments.  Most, however, are built over or near existing infrastructure with strong proximity to public transportation.

They’re crowning example is the revitalization of downtown Deerfield.  That had nowhere to go but up.  It’s hard to miss when you are showcasing a retail development at a major intersection (Waukegan and Deerfield roads) a place Deerfield residents and shoppers from the area have been familiar with for decades.

Aside from the redevelopment of downtown Deerfield, other area downtowns have gone through attempted metamorphisms – with varying degrees of success.  Highland Park’s Port Clinton Square and Renaissance place have worked well within the existing framework of its retail district.

Arlington Heights has done a beautiful job of incorporating arts, residential and retail – but there too is a case where it’s within the framework of a retail area, which, like Highland Park, has mass transit in proximity to the district.  It is far from perfect.  In fact, Arlington Heights is seeing more and more “for lease” signs in its downtown.  Think theaters are the answers?  Think again.  The movie theaters in downtown Arlington Heights are now shuttered.  In fact, it was reported in the Oct. 4 Trib Local, that the Arlington Economic Alliance is planning to survey residents about their shopping patterns.  Wonder why?  Probably to draw more folks to a somewhat struggling Camelot.

It’s interesting that Buffalo Grove village officials did not seek out CRM Properties.  They approached the village.  That should tell you something right there.  No doubt they surveyed and researched the village’s land use, zoning, socioeconomics and other statistical information that they wanted to put in their fuel tank.

But did they talk to the residents who would be impacted by their plan?  Probably not.  That is because they know a buzz saw when they see one.  My sources, none of which are on the village board, tell me that some thought was given to enhancing the Lake-Cook Road / Rt. 83 intersection, but costs and site limitations kept them from pursuing that.  Translation – they could not make enough money.

So what’s next?  Hello, Robin Hood – is it OK if we take your concept and twist it a bit?  Instead of taking from the rich and give to the poor, if you look at CRM’s plan, it takes from the poor to give to the rich – or maybe it’s to take from the poor to make them rich.

  The panacea they presented in August (and this is all on the village’s web site) calls for such amenities as an up-scale grocery store, drug store, children’s museum movie theater and live theater.  My goodness, how original are they?

  Buffalo Grove had a gourmet grocery which had about as much luck as the White Sox did in September, there are two, count ‘em two, outstanding children’s museum within 45 minutes of Buffalo Grove and we have more drug stores than the Cubs had losses this year.

So what’s the attraction?  Live theater.  This, of course, comes at the same time the Buffalo Grove Park District is looking to create a performing arts center on the site of Congregation Beth Am.

So what do we have here?  Everything CRM proposes.  So let’s say, for the sake of argument, that this “downtown” becomes reality, what happens next?  With such duplication either the folks who have been in business at Lake-Cook and Rt. 83 die and the new downtown thrives, or it fails and the existing commerce continues.  Either way, we stand to be stuck with more retail vacancies.

Despite what pundits say, there has to be a way to cohesively develop a plan that intertwines the existing retail with those along Buffalo Grove Road.  You have drug stores, movie theaters, performing arts (in the near future), doctor offices, condominiums, and, of course, sushi restaurants and a Starbucks.

I find it interesting that CRM also calls for a new village hall, police station and public works building.  Why? And how about eight- and 10-story buildings?  They just blend in so well abutting against residential neighborhoods.  The location is about as conducive to Buffalo Grove as a Packers bar would be at Soldiers Field.

It’s no wonder a group of residents, marketing themselves under “Save Buffalo Grove” have formed.  Most seem to be from nearby neighborhoods and are concerned about the quality of life near their homes.  Understandable.  However, they need to convey a message of concern and not use threats toward elected officials.

The proposal was made not even two months ago and there has not been any discussion on the development of Camelot.  Reaction to something as glistening and shiny as CRM’s proposal is like looking at that ultimate sports car – your eyes become as big as saucers.  Then what?  You look at the price tag, the insurance costs, and the gas mileage, and then the sports car -- like CRM’s plan -- would be described in words often used Marquette University’s late basketball coach, Al Maguire.

Seashells and balloons.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Stephanie Rubenstein October 06, 2012 at 12:46 PM
I have not had time to attend a Village Board meeting as I am employed by another Village who has also attempted a town center resulting in nothing but debt and closed up stores and restaurants. I am disgusted that Buffalo Grove would care so little about the amount of money this is going to cost at a time when many are unemployed and are already unhappy with our tax increases. I, too, am shocked that others haven't come forth to discuss the complete and utter lack of responsibility shown by the Board in even considering such an absurdity. This is Buffalo Grove. Most of us moved here because it's a "bedroom community." We like that it's quiet at night and we don't have too many traffic concerns. We especially like our golf course and our parks. The Board is falling into the same trap as other Villages in the area and concerning themselves with appearance. Unfortunately they have forgotten that appearance should equate to the areas that effect our quality of life, not how we're viewed by the very occasional visitor to Buffalo Grove. Let's be honest, we are a small suburb of Chicago; not a thriving metropolis for visitors. That's why we all chose to live here. The utter lack of financial responsibility is a slap in the face of the voters that gave the Board their power. Frankly, I think all the Board members should be removed for even considering this ridiculous concept.
Soccer Mom October 06, 2012 at 02:15 PM
You make an interesting point... You said that you are disgusted that BG would care so little about the amount of money this is going to cost at a time when many are unemployed and are already unhappy with our tax increases. You must have some information that the rest of us don't, so just a few questions. What is the amount it is going to cost? And what I mean by that is how much is it going to cost us the taxpayers? Not the total cost of the project, but the actual amount we the taxpayers will be on the hook for. How much are our taxes going to increase? And since you mention those tax increases, how much has the village raised our taxes in recent years? Unless you can give real answers to those questions, you are...as relentlesscritic likes to say...just spewing alarmist rhetoric. If you are really going to recall people over this, you might want to provide some actual facts to back up your claims.
ger October 14, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Buffalo Grove has a "Downtown"! It is Chicago!! Arlington Heights, Deerfield, and most other towns/villages have so called "Downtowns" because they are centered around train/commuter stations which lead to the real "Downtown" which is Chicago !

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