Library Plaza Development Concept, Developer Recruitment and Redevelopment Plan

City of Des Plaines, IL

In August 1995, we began an assignment to prepare a development concept and recruit a developer for a 6.2-acre site near the Metra station in downtown Des Plaines, Illinois. The site included a 20-year-old parking deck that had divided the district and cast a negative image of the community among developers, partly due to many unfulfilled promises to demolish the deck.

We worked with the City to initiate construction of temporary parking and demolition of the deck while beginning to study the development potential of the site. An illustrative development concept for the site was completed by The Lakota Group, and a developer recruitment package was released.

The development concept was based on a detailed assessment of both market conditions and physical opportunities and constraints, including the potential from commuters. Market studies were conducted for rental housing, for-sale housing, retail, and office uses. The market assessments for housing included research of current housing in the market and estimates of potential site capture for both rental and for-sale residential uses. For retail and office uses, the role of the site in the marketplace was evaluated, and potential users were identified. For all uses the relationship to the Metra commuter rail station was an important consideration in determining market potential. These studies helped the City to better formulate its objectives and to establish development guidelines for the developers. A request for developer qualifications (RFQ) was issued.

Results: The RFQ for developers attracted five firms. The objectives of the City were met, and the City Council approved the development in February of 1997. In late 1997, the City and the developer decided to incorporate the public library into the development.

In early 1998, we led a design team to revise the plan to incorporate a new public library for Des Plaines. Working with Lohan Associates, the architect selected to design the library, we coordinated the replanning of the project, including the master plan and traffic, parking and architectural issues. In April of 1998, the City Council approved the redevelopment agreement. LR Development constructed 30,000 square feet of retail, a parking structure on a “turn-key” basis, and served as development manager for the library. Norwood Builders built approximately 180 condominium units as part of the development. The parking garage opened in July of 1999, and the new library opened in August of 2000. The retail is fully leased, and the condominiums are sold out. The project has been credited by the current City Manager as being catalytic to further downtown revitalization.

In 2002, the project won an Honorable Mention Award from the Illinois Chapter of the American Planning Association "in recognition of a bold vision that succeeded as a result of its evolution and the persistence of those implementing it."

  • Total Retail SF: 30,000
  • Library SF: 82,000
  • Total Residential Units: 180
  • Total Project Cost: $65,453,000