Northfield’s Hibbard Road Gardens eyed for homes
Gayle Novak waters the plants Monday at the Hibbard Road Gardens, an 85-year-old nursery business that will close or move now that the property has been sold. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 26, 2013 12:35PM
The developer who built the Fox Meadow development near Willow and Waukegan roads in Northfield will be resubmitting plans this month for a housing development on the site of an historic nursery at Hibbard and Winnetka roads.
The Hibbard Road Gardens nursery has operated at that location since 1927, but has struggled financially in recent times. Its owner, Roy T. Jenkinson, grandson of the founder, was forced to sell the property this spring as part of bankruptcy proceedings. The 3.68-acre site at 62 Hibbard Road in Northfield was acquired for $1.1 million by HRG Venture, an affiliate of Glenview-based Edward R. James Partners, LLC, according to property records.
The nursery operator has a right to continue operations until September.
Jerry James, managing member of HRG Venture, said plans for a small group of single-family “cluster homes” would be submitted in late July or early August with anticipation of an initial hearing in September or October. The number of units has not been finalized.
“We see this as an opportunity to enhance the corner, and create something special that both fills a need and provides an attractive entry into the village,” said James. The developer said the cape-cod stye homes of 3,000 to 3,400 square feet would be targeted to residents who wish to downsize. The homes would include a master bedroom on the first floor and two additional bedrooms upstairs. A homeowners’ association would take care of all landscaping and snow removal and the site will include a storm detention pond.
Edward R. James Partners had previously entered into a tentative purchase agreement with Jenkinson, but later lowered the price the firm was willing to pay. In late 2010, the group filed for a special use with the Village of Northfield to construct seven houses on the property, a higher density than allowed by right under the village’s zoning code. (The village’s single-family R-1 zoning allows one unit per acre.) However, those plans were withdrawn in early 2011 after Jenkinson filed for bankruptcy to avoid selling his real estate for less than its previous appraised value and what he felt it was worth.
In a letter at the time to Northfield residents, James said that site characteristics discovered during due diligence, as well as market conditions, contributed to the decision. He noted that 80 percent of the property is located in a flood plain and there are several feet of fill material that would not support construction. Those issues could be remedied, he said, but “not without cost”.
James said Monday that discussions with neighbors, which began two years ago, revealed that stormwater management, density and the quality of the homes were their top concerns. The developer said the firm has modified its plans several times in response to neighbors’ input. The property is adjacent to the Meadowview neighborhood that suffered severe flooding in September of 2008.
The nursery business was suffering financially in 2008 when Jenkinson took out a loan secured by the property, which a bank appraisal at the time valued at more than $3.5 million, according to court filings.