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Discussions continuing on proposed Algonquin 'Colosseum' project

Village staff and the developer of the “Colosseum,” a proposed entertainment, retail and housing development in Algonquin, are continuing to work on plans for the project amid a myriad of concerns brought up by residents and trustees.

During a packed meeting of Algonquin’s Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, some residents spoke about their concerns with the project, while others lauded it as a way to bring younger people back to the community and provide something fun for them to do.

No formal decisions were made on the Colosseum at the meeting. The Planning and Zoning Commission previously had approved the structure, which would be at the northeast corner of the intersection of Randall Road and Longmeadow Parkway.

Colosseum developer Troy Mertz said the development could accommodate outdoor performing arts events, a summer concert series, cheer and dance competitions, football games, outdoor hockey, figure skating, soccer, lacrosse and beach volleyball. He also has plans for a 4-acre brewery restaurant, an e-gaming center and permanent seating for stage events and athletic competitions.

The residential portion of the project would consist of one- and two-bedroom apartments meant for millennials, two- and three-bedroom young-family townhouse rentals and three- or four-bedroom single-family housing.

Issues voiced by residents about the project included increased traffic, increased class sizes in nearby Westfield Community School because of the residential development and the high density of the development.

Algonquin resident Blake Wiltshire said the Colosseum would increase traffic on streets not meant for such levels.

While the focus seems to be on the Colosseum’s amenities, such as areas for sports and restaurants, the apartments and townhomes will lead to an “extra headache” for those who live around the area, Wiltshire told committee members.

“I just feel like the Colosseum project is the diversion,” he said. “[It’s there] to make everyone think that it’s something about the community, when it’s really about the apartments and townhomes.”

Leon BeBodos, a resident in favor of the Colosseum, said the amenities will help make Algonquin a “destination town” and the benefits outweigh the negatives.

“We definitely have a need,” BeBodos said, adding that his daughters and their friends have a difficult time finding things to do in Algonquin while they are home from college and instead go to areas such as Crystal Lake. “We need a square, we need [somewhere] for them to go out and see people. ... I know there might be some transitional issues we need to go through ... but we can make this thing work.”

Village trustees also voiced concerns with some aspects of the potential development.

Trustee Laura Brehmer said she would consider a project with a reasonable density, open space for groundwater recharge, utilities in front of the structure to preserve trees and a plan that embraces the intent of the conservation design layout, design standards and the watershed plan detailed in the village’s comprehensive plan.

However, Brehmer said “the proposed plan in its current form does not meet that criteria.”

Trustee John Spella criticized a number of aspects of the project’s plan, including the density of the apartment complex, which Spella said has been a problem since Day 1.

“I’m not against this project in total, but if there’s one thing I am against, it’s putting apartments next to $400,000 homes [in the neighborhood],” he said.

Russ Farnum, Algonquin community development director, said village staff needed board members’ input on how to proceed, and if they were interested in the project at all. With that input, he said staff will make those changes.

“We will do that, and it’ll come back to the committee at a later date,” Farnum said. “I don’t have a specific timeline; it depends on how fast the developer’s staff can turn around their plans.”

Farnum said these changes could include increasing some open space, eliminating a few buildings and rearranging land use, but it is up to the developer to make those changes.

Mertz said he will take the committee’s comments and work on the plan. Mertz has owned the property for four years, and for two years has worked on the design plans with the village.

“I think there’s an overall willingness to work together, make this a win-win for everybody,” he added. “We would be happy to break ground as soon as we have approvals.”

He said he also has been talking with Algonquin-based School District 300.

“I actually live in the community, I talk to, hear from many of the residents who live there,” Mertz said. “I understand there’s people who have opinions on both sides.”

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