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Just Damn Good Architecture

Getting Approved is a Big Deal

Anyone in the architectural field knows how challenging it can be to get a project from paper to approved to vertical. The countless tweaks to get from an initial concept to a built project will likely never be seen. The work behind the scenes means long, challenging hours and, more often than not, a project doesn’t come to fruition. But BSB Design is committed to bringing successful designs to our clients, no matter how long it takes or the number of variations needed to find “the one.”  We strive to bring fresh, effective ideas to our clients and leave them with an overall great experience.

At BSB Design, we have proven success tackling challenging projects. We employ experts in the planning sector, which has given us the knowledge to design around complex roadblocks. Once a project is approved, we don’t stop looking at it from different angles. A perfect example of this is Uptown 500, one of our multifamily projects in Illinois. We worked with multiple consultants and faced many challenges before achieving approval.

Most suburban (and urban) infill projects such as this are typically challenging on many levels. NIMBYism (Not in My Back Yard), concerns about traffic, density, loss of perceived open space and diminished property values are frequent protests expressed at public zoning meetings. In other cases, such as this, the various challenges and constraints of the site that previously discouraged attempts by other developers also had to be overcome.

The Site Details

The site, in Wheeling, a northwest Chicago suburb, has a downtown with a lot of growth potential. Uptown 500 is an integral part of the existing Wheeling Town Center because it is adjacent to a Metra station and is in the “heart” of downtown growth.

The small site, just 7.65 acres, had issues because of its location in a floodplain, which played a large part in why it remained undeveloped thus far. BSB remained confident we could make this site work and began working through Wheeling’s planning process to get a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) to approve the site for building. Before the client came to us, a development had already been approved. Upon BSB’s careful review of the existing plan, it was concluded that it was less than ideal for that site – an expensive building lacking the high density necessary to make it profitable. BSB agreed to start from scratch to design a more successful plan for this site.

Our Proposal

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Our first proposal was a five-story mixed use wrap building including structured parking, with the left side of the building built to shield the units from the Metra tracks. We proposed 12,000 square feet of retail space, 262 residential units and a courtyard located in the center of the site with a pool and amenities such as a fitness center, sky lounge, roof terrace and more. The amenities carried through on each floor, allowing residents plenty of access. For the overall look, we decided on an edgy and contemporary exterior with a blend of materials to achieve the desired appearance. BSB Design took a risk proposing this design, as the surrounding area was mostly masonry and traditional design themes, but it paid off in the end.

Our biggest concern while planning Uptown 500 was the shape of the building and how to make it efficient. We asked questions like, “How do we make the building and amenities accessible to all residents?” Our solution to this problem was to create a visually appealing, yet efficient sky bridge to connect both sides of the building on the third and fourth floors. This unique addition didn’t go unnoticed and become a prominent feature in the architecture.

The BSB team worked hard to keep the process moving quickly and smoothly and the final site plan was approved by the planning commission and the Wheeling Board in five short months. Although it was approved, we continued to revisit the plan to ensure it remained the best possible option.

Perfecting The Plan

BSB Design eventually decided to add a sixth floor to increase the total residential units from 262 to 321. The retail space was reduced to 10,500 square feet to make room for a larger courtyard with more sunlight and recreational space. In March 2018, the revised plan was approved again.

Site plans can take years and many revisions to perfect. Once a project receives approval, it doesn’t mean it will be built and that can be a challenge. BSB Design knows that each project – no matter how big or small – requires extensive thought and research to make ensure its success. Even though our client came to us with an approved site plan, BSB wasn’t afraid to dig deeper and explore other solutions. We quickly found the plan didn’t make the most of the prime site. It wasn’t the end of the road but the beginning of our contribution to developing the downtown area in Wheeling, Illinois.

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