Weston scraps Camp Phillips Centre

(First published in the March 5, 2020 issue of City Pages)

Village had invested $3.2 million into the huge retail corridor plan, which has been in the works since 2015


Rendering of Camp Phillips Centre, along Hwy. 29

Plans for a huge retail corridor in Weston are being scrapped, officials in the village say.

Forward Development Group had been working with the village to develop a 140-acre parcel into a business area called Camp Phillips Centre, first envisioned under then Village Administrator Daniel Guild’s leadership. But the first step in that process — getting the wetland mitigation permits in order to develop on the land — still hasn’t happened, even though the village and FDG started the process in 2015.

Ron Henshue of FDG told the village board Monday that they shouldn’t move forward with the project.

“It’s not feasible to be built the way you visualized,” Henshue said.

Guild had first proposed the retail corridor in 2015 after citing a study that showed Weston could tap into a huge retail market from outside the immediate area. But Weston residents and board members started to doubt those claims as large national retailers went into a tailspin, with major store closures becoming the norm over the past five years.

Weston has spent $3.2 million on the project, including consultant fees and preparatory work, says Village Administrator Keith Donner. According to Henshue, FDG had invested more than $2 million into the project.

Village board members were incensed Monday, saying they’d gone a long time without hearing from FDG and felt out of the loop. Board member Nate Fiene said he was elected to the board in April and heard Donner say eight or nine times that they hadn’t been able to get in touch with FDG. “The number one thing I heard from constituents is, ‘When are we going to get answers on the Camp Phillips project?’” Fiene said Monday. “Showing up matters.”

Weston’s Director of Planning and Development Jennifer Higgins said they kept giving the DNR what they needed for the wetland permit only for them to change what they said they need. Ultimately the DNR wanted contracts with the retailers going into the corridor, but the retailers didn’t want to reveal their plans until the permits were finalized. “We got caught in this chicken and egg. It seemed like they didn’t understand master planning.”

The village could still work with FDG in developing single projects in the area, but those would be handled like any other project, Village President Wally Sparks says.