Can a successful suburb have a thriving downtown and a stadium-driven mixed-use district?

With the Chicago Bears considering building in Arlington Heights, one village trustee expressed concerns that a sizable project would compete with the suburb’s successful downtown:

Photo by Philipp Silbernagl on Pexels.com

But, he said, “I’m going to tell you right now I’m not a fan of the site plan. And I hope this doesn’t blow up and ruin things for you in any way because I’m just one person sitting up here. But I have to be true to myself and true to my thoughts.”

Tinaglia, who founded his Tinaglia Architects firm in Arlington Heights in 1991, blasted the mixed-use transit-oriented development aspect of the Bears’ proposal, arguing the plans for restaurants, stores, offices, hotels, homes and more on 206 acres of the 326-acre property would detract from what is in downtown Arlington Heights.

“For a community that doesn’t have a downtown — that doesn’t have what Arlington Heights already has — that community would die to have this,” Tinaglia said. But he said he didn’t believe Arlington Heights’ current business owners could survive the competition from the kind of development being proposed.

Just how many entertainment centers can exist in the suburbs, let alone in one community?

Many suburbs would like to have a thriving downtown. Arlington Heights has one. It boosts the status of the community with its older buildings, current businesses bringing in residents and visitors, and possibly residents living downtown and also visiting local businesses and restaurants. Not all suburbs have downtowns; some never had them due to consisting of multiple suburban subdivisions joined together while others may have had a downtown that is now struggling or non-existent. The suburban downtown has had numerous challenges over the years – strip malls, shopping malls, driving and parking, big box stores, and more – so having a successful one is not something a suburb would lightly give up.

On the other hand, not every suburb has an opportunity to be home to a major sports stadium and all of the development around it. This is a new opportunity that could be worth a lot in terms of business activity and tax revenue, population growth, and status tied to being the home of an important football franchise.

It will be interesting to see if there is a compromise to be had here where both a downtown and a new mixed-use development coexist. Do they have to be in competition or can they serve different audiences?

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