Costco lobbies for Wheaton's Hubble school site

Published: 3/19/2010 12:00 AM

Wholesale giant Costco continues to express interest in redeveloping the former Hubble Middle School site in downtown Wheaton.

A Costco representative met last week with city councilmen John Prendiville and Liz Corry to talk about the possibility of constructing a 135,000-square-foot warehouse store on the 22-acre parcel at Naperville and Roosevelt roads.

Prendiville and Corry stressed the discussion was "very informal" and preliminary. They said a steering committee they both serve on is about a year away from recommending "one vision" for the old Hubble property, which is owned by Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200.

In addition to Costco, steering committee members are reviewing three other redevelopment options for the property, including a mixed-use development with townhouses, a specialty grocery store and a fitness center.

"It (Costco) is not at the top of my list," Prendiville said. "I don't think it's at the top of anybody's list because of the aesthetics and how it would impact the neighborhood and the open space next door."

Still, Prendiville said during a Thursday night Wheaton League of Women Voters event that he and others need to keep "an open mind" because of economic conditions in the city.

"We have to consider every option and not foreclose anything at this point," Prendiville told the audience of about 60 people.

According to Corry and Prendiville, the Costco representative said a store would create about 300 jobs and, after three or four years, generate as much as $3 million annually in sales tax revenue for the city.

"The Costco thing has a lot of potential once you start to think about it," Corry said.

However, any project that happens at the old Hubble site would need to overcome obstacles.

Because of the bowllike nature of the site, 11 acres is in a floodplain. Whoever develops the property will have to limit any structures to the 11 acres of higher ground, which is located along Naperville Road.

Even if a Costco could be designed to fit on the property, there's concerns about traffic and the impact on nearby homeowners.

"We've got a residential neighborhood right next door," Prendiville said. "So it is a fairly incompatible use. I really respect the neighborhoods, and I don't want to do anything to damage them."

That's part of the reason officials have said they were looking for something other than a "big box" store to fill the site.

While there's questions about big box retail, there's also hesitation about the site only having condominiums and townhouses.

But a mixture of uses could address some surprising market needs. For example, consultants have determined there is sufficient population in the area to support a 12- to 14-screen movie theater. Other possible uses for the property include a fitness center and an extended stay hotel.

While a redevelopment plan could be completed by next year, officials say it will be at least two years before the property is redeveloped.