When the Chicago Bears signed a purchase agreement for a massive piece of land in Arlington Heights, they brought the team one step closer to leaving Soldier Field — and the site of Arlington International Racecourse one step closer to redevelopment.
The deal isn’t done, but if the Bears do move to the site of the racecourse, developers and real estate brokers say the portion of the 326-acre site not used for a stadium has the potential to become a suburban mecca of entertainment. But it will take careful planning to make it work.
Hotels, restaurants, bars and other entertainment are natural fits around a football stadium, said Jason Wurtz, executive vice president at commercial real estate firm NAI Hiffman. But the size of the property means it’s likely too big for just one use, and there have to be enough people around to patronize businesses during off days and the off season, he said.
They key, he said, is density. Homes at the site will bring people to the businesses. Condo or apartment buildings are more likely than single-family homes to bring residents who have the time and need for entertainment, he said.
It could look like a little Wrigleyville, he said.
SoFi Stadium outside Los Angeles, home to the Rams and Chargers, offers one redevelopment example, though it’s too new to judge its ultimate success. Around the stadium, the 300-acre Hollywood Park is slated to include as much as 5 million square feet of “creative” office space, a retail district as large as 890,000 square feet, a performance venue, a hotel and up to 2,500 homes.
Office space might not be in demand in Arlington Heights, though. The site is too far removed from the major highways corporate clients traditionally seek, Wurtz said.
One challenge for the Arlington Heights site could be getting restaurants and businesses on board for a location that, at least in the beginning, is primarily only a game-day destination, said Jeff Benach, principal at Lexington Homes.
The location is great for a football stadium with a Metra stop and relative proximity to expressways, but it would take time to become a stand-alone destination.
“It’s being put out in a remote site, where there’s nothing else,” he said.
Creating an entertainment district could also take a significant investment by the team, he said.
Another sports facility at the complex, such as a soccer stadium or minor league hockey arena, could bring traffic during the football offseason, said Chris Coleman, vice president of development at Wingspan Development Group.
The Chicago Fire and the Chicago Wolves hockey team have other arenas — the Fire plays at Soldier Field, and the Wolves play at Allstate Arena in Rosemont — so the concept could hinge on whether they would be willing to move to any potential Arlington Heights stadium.
Apartments with amenities like those in city high-rises, such as pools, fitness centers, dog parks and hot tubs, would be another draw, Coleman said. And boutique retail stores that are destinations in and of themselves could also help.
“It just looks promising and exciting,” he said.
Even football stadiums without redevelopment in the immediate surroundings can have benefits for the area, said David Harrington, president of the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce in Maryland.
The Washington Football Team moved from D.C. into Harrington’s county in the late 1990s, into an area he described as in need of redevelopment and economic attention.
There hasn’t been a major redevelopment in the immediate area, but there have been some community benefits, he said. Years after the team moved to Maryland, a development with a trendy grocery store and hotel was built, and town homes and some other retail have also come in nearby.
The stadium has also served as an identifier for Landover, Maryland, which has helped generate interest in the community, Harrington said.
“Having that foot traffic, it can’t be ignored,” he said.
In Arlington Heights, redevelopment of the site has the potential to drive tourism, development and tax receipts, Wurtz said. Fans of opposing teams, concertgoers and attendees of corporate events will seek food and hotels.
“It’s definitely going to make Arlington Heights more of a tourist destination for those events than it was before.”
Publication:(Chicago Tribune, Author – Sarah Freishtat Article provided courtesy of mbbi.org, published September 30, 2021.