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Hickory Hills Zoning Board approves development on old Sabre Room property

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

mike pryal photo 10-20

Photo by Dermot Connolly

Mike Pryal (at right) was among the Hickory Hills residents who got a chance to peruse development plans for the Sabre Room property at a community meeting on Oct. 12.

Following a public hearing on Monday night, the Hickory Hills Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals voted to approve a zoning variance requested for a proposed mixed-use development on the site of the Sabre Room property at 8900 W. 95th St.

The final decision on the development, called Sabre Woods, is up to the City Council, which will consider it at its Nov. 10 meeting.

Hickory Hills residents had a chance to meet the property owners and development team, and ask questions about their plans, at two community meetings held Oct. 12at St. Patricia Parish Center.

“We’re very excited about this. We’re going to miss the Sabre Room, but we’re looking forward to something new. The name will live on as Sabre Woods” said developer Chip Cornelius.

“There is a tremendous amount of heritage there. Frank Sinatra, Liza Minelli, Johnny Carson, Bill Cosby were among the people who performed at the Sabre Room. But, the economy, the health of the family took its toll and the decision was made to close,” said Jim Koziarz, representing the family of Arthur and Marie Muzzarelli, who founded the Sabre Room in 1949.

“We’re here to look forward. We made a decision to develop the 30-acre site in a comprehensive way, rather than hodgepodge. We developed this master plan with three primary components,” said developer Jim Louthen, president of Re-Town.

The senior living component, referred to Sabre Woods Senior Village, would include 20 single-family ranch homes, as many as 84 senior apartments and 120 assisted living units.

Louthen described it as “sophisticated senior housing.”

“We know there is a need for assisted living and going along with that is memory care,” he said.

Pricing for the senior residences will be market-driven, Louthen said.

The retail component, being called the “Shops of Sabre Woods,” will be facing 95th Street. No decisions have been made about exactly which businesses would be going in there.

“It is still early but we’ve set the bar very high as far as the standard of retail that we’re looking for,” Louthen said. “A very modern big-box store could fit right.”

The third, “civic component” of the property includes the possibility of donating a piece of the property for a civic building in the wooded, northwest corner of the property.

“We really believe in community,” said Louthen. He described it as a public-private partnership, but Mayor Mike Howley said afterward that the city has not been asked to come up with any money for the project yet.

Howley also pointed out that the property is currently zoned for residential, so if this proposal had not come along, a residential developer would have needed no variance to build a big subdivision that could result in overcrowded schools.

When flooding concerns were raised by area residents, Louthen said, “We know there were issues with flooding in the past. That will all be taken care of. This new plan accommodates drainage; we wouldn’t get a permit without it. We have to calculate the amount of rain that will fall and provide space for that,” noting that the site plans include several retention ponds. “We think that it is economically feasible, will generate jobs and is marketable and fits into the fabric and goals of Hickory Hills.”

“It’s a big piece of property, I think the development will be good for the community,” said Mike Pryal, after looking over the plans. Residents were invited to submit suggestions about the project. Pryal said his only concern was attracting the right businesses that will do well.

“We need some nice restaurants. We have three main retail strips in Hickory Hills, and there are already a lot of vacancies,” he said.