Northwest suburban Chicago is one of the fastest-growing areas in the Midwest. Comprised of family-oriented communities with nice neighborhoods and tree-lined streets, the northwest suburbs stretch from the DeKalb County line through Cook and DuPage counties. Communities such as Buffalo Grove, Arlington Heights, and Schaumburg offer an average home value between $250,000 and $325,000. To the east is Park Ridge, known for great Chicagoland entertainment, including The Pickwick Theatre—noted as “Suburban Chicago’s Most Beautiful Theatre.”
Like the rest of the country, record gas prices, mortgage market turmoil, and the overall economy continue to influence new home sales in the northwest suburbs. In an effort to boost sales, developers have offered new home incentives such as deals on appliances. However, those measures were not enough to encourage an influx of new buyers. Consequently, builders are turning to a more attractive incentive–outright price cuts.
According to Tracy Cross, President of Tracy Cross and Associates, Inc., “With more developers cutting prices, buyers are more likely to come off the sidelines in larger numbers; a necessary step before the market can recover.”
Furthermore, John Adams, President of the Chicago division of Ryland Group Inc., a California-based company, states, “Ryland currently offers a range of incentives, including price cuts in local developments by $10,000 to $12,000, or 8 percent to 10 percent.”
MASTER PLAN COMMUNITIES
In order to plan for future economic growth in the northwest suburbs, several communities have initiated plans for what builders refer to as, “Master Plan Communities.” A Master Plan Community not only includes housing plats, but may also include other amenities such as office parks, recreational parks, and commercial centers. Some city planners also include hotels/motels into their community’s plans.
Generally, Master Plan Communities are distinguished by the tremendous number of amenities and conveniences, and the over all enormous land area the community encompasses in the overall plan. For example, because of their sheer size, Master Plan Communities incorporate extensive recreational amenities like lakes, golf courses, and expansive parks with bike paths, and jogging trails. Additionally, general shopping, strip, and/or commercial centers are planned and included in the initial stages by the city and developers, long before ground breaking occurs. Tracy Cross comments, “Master Plan Communities are self-contained social economic platforms with a variety of amenities including recreational components and excellent schools. They are attractive and appealing, offering residents a sense of identity and community pride. This is a significant change over stand-alone development.”
As commercial properties generate income for a specific area, one might think banks and financial institutions are more likely to finance commercial projects over residential developments. “Not so,” says Kim Uhlig, Director of Economic Development for the City of Park Ridge. “Financing is tight for developers right now. Retail is stagnant, entertainment has become the focus with the addition of new restaurants in town.
“However,” she adds, “Park Ridge has undergone some ‘mixed-use’ expansion. She refers to “T.O.D.,” or Transit Oriented Development, a mix of retail office and residential redevelopments that are highly successful due to their convenient location to Metra.
Additionally, commercial development in Cook County seems to be focused on Schaumburg. According to Matt Frank, Economic Development Coordinator for the village, says, “Outside of Chicago, Schaumburg is the leading center of economic development in the state of Illinois. In addition to the 9.5 millions square feet of retail and commercial space, the village has over 12 million square feet of office space and 13.5 million square feet of industrial space.”
Just like Park Ridge, a number of exciting restaurants have opened their doors in Schaumburg, including the eclectic Dosti Bar and Grill and John Barleycorn.
New to the streets of Woodfield is a 30,000 square-foot play arena called Legoland Discovery Center. Legoland is designed for kids ages 2 to 12. The Schaumburg Legoland will focus on entertainment and education with Lego model building, a sit-down dragon ride similar to a train, an adventure trail, and a 4-D cinema incorporating Lego creatures and special effects. According to Adrian Jones, U.S. General Manager for Merlin Entertainments Group, which operates the park, “Legoland is a smaller version of the outdoor Legoland theme park popular around the world, including in California.” Merlin, partially owned by The LEGO Group, is the world's second-largest entertainment company after Disney.
According to Matt Frank, AICP, Economic Development Coordinator for the Village of Schaumburg, “Schaumburg has grown to become the retail commercial hub of the northwest suburbs. While much of the commercial development focuses on Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg is characterized by a balanced economy of office, commercial, and industrial development. This balance provides residents and visitors with an opportunity to live, shop and work in the village, thereby contributing to and benefiting from Schaumburg’s economic stature.”