A once-contentious development proposal for downtown Wilmette now has the needed approval to move forward.
Wilmette’s Village Board Tuesday, Oct. 27, granted final approval for a mixed-used development project in downtown Wilmette frequently referred to as the Optima development.
The development at 1210 Central Ave. includes the construction of a building containing approximately 5,900 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and 109 new on-property residential units, according to documents detailing the project.
The subject property is located in the Village Center zoning district.
Of the 109 units, 100 will be located on floors two through six of the building, while nine will be located on the ground level. A roof deck on the seventh floor with enclosed amenity space will also be part of the project.
Approved plans for the development also include 28 new public parking spaces, with two public electric vehicle parking stations.
The project first appeared in front of the Wilmette Plan Commission in January of 2020 for a public hearing. The commission voted 5-2 on Feb. 4 to recommend denial for the developer’s request for a special-use permit.
After several revised applications and proposals, Wilmette’s Village Board voted 5-2 to approve the developer’s preliminary plans in early March; however, the board still needed to adopt several ordinances related to the plan before it could move forward.
Officials’ subsequent ordinance adoption included additional elements the village describes as “public benefits” of the project. Those are, according to village documents:
• A contribution from the developer of $1.6 million for potential use to further advance affordable housing within the village;
• A contribution of $120,000 for the streetscape improvements in the Village Center;
• The construction and maintenance of a public plaza, which will display public art; and
• Twenty-eight parking spaces for general-public use, two of which will be used for fee-for-service electric charging stations.
Several aspects of the proposal were changed from the time it received a negative recommendation from the Plan Commission until it was ultimately approved.
Community Development Director John Adler told The Record a key revision was the developer’s 5-foot setback of the second-sixth floors of the building along Green Bay Road, which eliminated a variation the project would have required. The ground floor was also setback an additional 5 feet from the original plan.
Most of the residential concerns raised during public meetings centered on how the building will impact the residences to the west. There’s several townhomes and some single-family homes located in close proximity to the west of the project.
The applicant — Green Bay Wilmette LLC, which is an affiliate of Optima Inc. — has previously developed three condominium projects in Wilmette. Those projects are the four-story mixed-use Optima Center in downtown Wilmette, the 10-story building at 1618 Sheridan Road and the Lake Courts mixed-use building on Lake Avenue.
The development team indicated it will be demolishing the current building in the first quarter of next year and will be starting construction in the fourth quarter of 2021, Adler said. Officials are targeting a completion date in 2023.
Village officials believe the approved plans are in line with Wilmette’s comprehensive master plan.
“One of the underlying goals of (the village’s comprehensive master plan) was to increase the number of people who live in and are able to enjoy our services and the transportation the Village Center provides, and this is definitely doing that,” Adler said.
“Also, the way that the corner of the building on the first floor was setback allowing sort of a public plaza on that corner there was something else that helped further the vision of the master plan. The idea of increasing the density is a positive. The money that will be provided for affordable housing is something that will allow us to also address goals of the comprehensive plan as they related to housing needs.”
Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.