A long-awaited resolution to what has for years been Mundelein’s greatest development challenge is underway.
Demolition of the former Oak Creek Plaza shopping center on Route 60 just east of Route 45 to make way for 222 townhouses began a week ago, shortly after the closure of national builder DR Horton on the 33 acre property.
A groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday was a figurative sigh of relief that change is finally coming to the greatest and most visible horror in the village.
The once bustling mall was built in the early 1980s but has been largely vacant since Menards closed in 2012. In its place will be 222 townhouses in 45 buildings and a 10-acre public park along Oak Creek, which will be the first in the village. with a dog park.
“It’s amazing. Ten years ago, Menards was here,” said Mayor Steve Lentz, speaking near what remains of the old flagship store.
“It started a 10-year journey to where we are today. It really became a ghost town,” he added. “That was our biggest challenge as a community.”
Initially, a Walmart supercenter was in the picture but did not materialize. The center property was foreclosed and the sore thumb property languished.
In 2017, the village engaged the Urban Land Institute-Chicago to assess opportunities in the Route 60 corridor.
The committee concluded that the site was desirable for new residential development due to its proximity to other neighborhoods; opportunity to create a “scenic natural retreat” along Oak Creek, which runs through the property; and, its location in the prestigious Adlai E. Stevenson High School District.
After another study showed a drop in demand for commercial space, trustees chose residential use as the preferred alternative.
Texas-based DR Horton completed Lake Ridge Townhouses in 2019, which had been started by another developer. The site is approximately half a mile northwest of Oak Creek Plaza on Route 45 and Hickory Street.
The homebuilder in 2020 acquired the 220,000 square foot mall and contracted property.
This transaction began “two years of very collaborative effort” with the village, said Cole Tyrell, DR Horton Division President. In April 2021, the village designated a 133-acre area comprising the site as a special funding district.
Last March, the village council approved a redevelopment agreement with DR Horton for the site.
The agreement includes incentives of up to $5.87 million from the special funding district for land acquisition, demolition and other costs.
Lentz described the passage of the agreement at the time as a “very historic evening” in village life.
All participants are ready to go.
“DR Horton is extremely excited about starting this project,” said Derrick Hoffman, Lands Manager for the company.
Townes at Oak Creek will include a landscaped common area with a community fire pit and walking paths. New roads, including a new access point from Route 45 rather than Route 60, are planned.
Outlots along Route 60 are held separately. Current uses including Pita Inn, Associated Bank, Culver’s, Popeye’s and a car wash will remain. The X-Factor Trampoline Park is independently owned and some parking lots can be moved.
Officials said the 10-acre park could become a retirement destination or lunch spot for residents, visitors or guests of the nearby Double Tree Hotel.
The park will have public parking, a playground, and a dog park the size of a high school football field.
“It was in the results of the village survey and in the results of our survey,” said Ron Salski, executive director of the Mundelein Park and Recreation District. “It’s a perfect place.”
Tyrell said the company hopes to start building model homes in August and open houses will follow in the fall.