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New residential growth ahead for Wonder Lake, McHenry

Construction beginning in long-stalled housing subdivisions

Andrew Teegen, manager at NRB Land LLC, talks about the progress and delays involved with the Thatcher Meadows development Friday in McHenry.
Andrew Teegen, manager at NRB Land LLC, talks about the progress and delays involved with the Thatcher Meadows development Friday in McHenry.

Home construction in the long-stalled Thatcher Meadows development could begin as soon as the fall of 2020.

NRB Land LLC has been working toward making the massive development a reality for more than a decade. The site is located on 1,400 acres between Wonder Lake and McHenry, north of Route 120 and south of McCullom Lake Road.

Plans include 3,700 residential units that will be a mix of apartments, senior housing, single-family homes and townhomes, said Andrew Teegen, principal and manager at NRB.

Recreational facilities, bike and walking paths, clubhouses, parks with baseball and soccer fields, and a new school also are planned on the site.

Single-family homes will be a mix of starter homes, higher-end homes, semi-custom and custom homes, he said. Different neighborhoods would be separated by trees and landscaping used to create a berm to avoid an overcrowded look.

NRB helped fund an expansion at Harrison School District 36, but once people begin moving into homes at Thatcher Meadows, school enrollment likely will rise. Once Harrison is at capacity, NRB will build the on-site school, Teegen said.

NRB already has completed some landscaping that included putting a road network in place, planting trees and bushes from an on-site nursery around the property and installing bridges and ponds. Water system infrastructure must be completed before residential construction can begin, Teegen said.

The village annexed the property about 10 years ago, around the time the recession hit. The project has been stalled since, and NRB recently renegotiated the 20-year agreement to essentially restart the clock and allow for another 20 years to try to complete the proposed plans.

“By now we were supposed to have been almost sold out,” Teegen said. “We would have been averaging 350 home sales a year here. ... And here we are at zero still, 10 years into this thing.”

There is no guarantee the project will be complete in 20 years, he said.

“We may have to do another extension anyway,” he said. “The sales velocity is going to be a key thing for the builders. How much can they sell in one year? It’s going to probably be half of what we thought it would be [before the recession.]”

NRB hopes to work with several national builders to complete different types of housing units in Thatcher Meadows. The plan would involve selling different “neighborhoods” – about 100 lots can fit in a neighborhood – to builders who then would construct the different types of housing, Teegen said.

“This allows multiple builders to be going at the same time, not competing head to head,” he said. “We want to be where builders A, B, C, D and E could be operating at the same time with five different product types.”

After a stagnant decade, the market is picking up, he said.

“It does feel like things are finally getting to a point where the builders are having more serious conversations, so to speak, with our product and in the market in general,” he said.

Other McHenry County municipalities also are expecting housing growth, in part spurred by lowered impact fees.

The city of McHenry last year approved reduced impact fees for multiple developers of new homes. Those included D.R Horton, which plans to construct 86 homes in the Oaks of Irish Prairie subdivision.

Impact fees go to schools, parks, libraries and fire departments to offset the strain more residents could put on the entities.

The city has issued D.R. Horton 15 building permits already, said Peggy Vicek, with the McHenry community development department.

Builders of the Legend Lakes development also have construction plans. A projected 82 are expected to go into empty lots in the subdivision. The city has issued two building permits for model homes on the site, Vicek said.

The developers of Liberty Trails subdivision, which has 48 vacant lots, also requested a reduction of impact fees.

In Crystal Lake, Lennar Homes is constructing the Woodlore Estates. The subdivision will consist of about 500 homes on 310 acres near Routes 176 and 31. The whole project could take five to seven years to complete, but several homes already have been sold.

Sandy Etten, a broker with Century 21 Roberts and Andrews, said she has seen an increase in new home sales over the past several years. Last year, she saw 30 new homes sell in the area compared to 12 sold in 2015.

“There are more selling, but the sales price hasn’t risen,” she said. “Increased sales are a good sign, but it tells you that the market is price driven.”

The average price of a new home in the McHenry area is in the $230,000 to $233,000 range, she said.

“If they keep to that price range I could see them being successful,” she said of the new developments. “Oaks of Irish Prairie was a nice area and then they left it hanging. I could see that reviving.”

For a buyer, the draw of newly constructed homes includes warranties, new appliances and furnaces, and amenities such as neighborhood parks, she said.

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