They wasted no time asking for details about Glenwood Place, a mixed-use development that would replace a dated, suburban-style office park just inside the Beltline.
How would it affect property values? How much noise would it generate? And, perhaps most critical to those gathered, what would it do to traffic in an area where long waits already are a daily headache?
Drivers wait longer than two minutes at intersections just north of the location, and some delays are expected to increase to 10 minutes by 2035 if the city doesn’t make major changes.
Developers pledged to do right by the neighbors, saying they won’t make the traffic situation any worse than it already is. They say it will help that drivers will come and go throughout the day because of the mixed uses on the property, rather than only arriving at and leaving from offices at peak times.
They also said change is inevitable.
“The growth is coming and this property will be developed, if not by us, by someone else,” said Gordon Grubb, founder of Grubb Ventures. “We have had out-of-town, out-of-state people contact us wanting to buy parcels and do a suburban office building and a cookie-cutter apartment. But that’s not what we want to do. We want to do it right.”
Grubb Ventures owns the property and is developing the project with Charlotte-based Lincoln Harris.
Some of the neighbors have said they’re taking a wait-and-see approach. Others are skeptical of what the future might bring.
Allan Bloom, who has lived in Country Club Hills since the mid-1980s, said he’s concerned about what could come after the rezoning, especially if the property is later sold.
“I ’m against giving developers a blank check, and that’s what they’re asking for,” he said.
The developers filed their rezoning application with the city shortly after unveiling their plans in December. They’re requesting a rezoning change to a planned development, a designation that means they’ll show more of their exact plans to city staff than is typically required at this stage.
Bloom doesn’t find that reassuring. “It’s a slippery slope,” he said.
Grubb said he could develop the property under the current zoning but can better integrate retail into the plan with the rezoning. The developers wouldn’t have to bury the retail or limit the signs on shops, restrictions they said could hinder the property’s success.
The rezoning also would give them more freedom to put the development’s tallest buildings of 10 to 12 stories along Glenwood and the Beltline, rather than closer to existing homes.
Brent Rice has lived near the proposed development for 10 years and attended a neighborhood meeting in December. He thinks the development is promising, as long as it doesn’t allow for any road extensions into his neighborhood.
“Everything I heard at the first meeting was great,” he said. “Having shops, restaurants and things you can walk to is wonderful.”
The developers have said they wouldn’t support allowing roads to cut through the site to Country Club Hills, a residential community behind it.
Under city rules, the development could include up to 140,000 square feet of retail, 250 hotel rooms, 900,000 square feet of office space and 800 residential units. The company already has approval for 292 residential units and a hotel on the site and plans to demolish the existing office space.
The developers said those numbers could fluctuate depending on market conditions. But they’ll make sure to stay within the “trip budget” they generated for their traffic analysis. That budget is what guarantees service will remain at acceptable levels at the intersections they were asked to include in their study.
They’ve planned an estimated $2.5 million in improvements, including adding a westbound lane onto Interstate 440 from the site, new turn lanes and a traffic signal at the National Drive entrance into the site.
City staff will study the plan, including the traffic analysis, and discuss possible conditions with the developers before the rezoning request heads to the planning commission and city council.