Controversial Thorntons gas station plan withdrawn in Mundelein; fate of site unknown

  • A controversial plan to replace the Omega Restaurant at the northeast corner of routes 176 and 45 in Mundelein with a Thorntons gas station has been withdrawn by its developers.

      A controversial plan to replace the Omega Restaurant at the northeast corner of routes 176 and 45 in Mundelein with a Thorntons gas station has been withdrawn by its developers. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, 2020

 
 
Updated 3/17/2021 4:59 PM

A much-maligned plan to build a Thorntons gas station and a convenience store near downtown Mundelein has been withdrawn by the would-be developers -- but it's not necessarily dead.

The project had been proposed for the northeast corner of routes 45 and 176. The site is on Mundelein's north side, near the downtown district.

 

The Original Omega Restaurant and a vacant industrial building stand on the land now. Although the restaurant still operates, both buildings were set to be razed to make way for the new business.

A Northbrook company called GMX Real Estate Group was behind the redevelopment proposal. The group had agreed to buy the land and hoped to break ground this summer.

But objections to the proposal were plentiful.

Nearby residents voiced concerns about traffic, light at night, the potential impact on the environment and other issues.

"They deserve not to have this monstrosity sitting on top of them," said Nadine Mihaljevic, who has led a grass-roots push against the plan.

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Mihaljevic and her allies scored a victory earlier this month when Mundelein's planning and zoning commission rejected a slew of requested variations from village building codes for the project. The requests covered parking, the height and brightness of lights and other elements.

The developer didn't prove following existing codes would be a hardship, commissioners said.

Without citing a reason, the development group withdrew the proposal last week, Village Administrator Eric Guenther said.

The village board would have had final say over the requested zoning variances. But with the plan withdrawn, it's no longer a pressing issue.

The developers are able to resubmit the proposal -- or submit a different concept, including one that doesn't require zoning variations -- in the future.

"Without knowing the status of the real estate deals, it's unclear if the Thornton's deal is completely off or may return before the board at a later time," Trustee Robin Meier said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Meier opposed the proposal, saying a gas station at the entrance to the downtown area -- and at a key entry point for Mundelein itself -- goes against the village's long-term planning and beautification efforts.

Trustee Dawn Abernathy, who also opposed the project, suspects the developers pulled the plan to avoid a negative vote that would mothball the proposal for at least a year, if not permanently. The developers now can bring it back after the April 6 election if they believe new trustees and the mayor will override the planning commission, Abernathy said.

"It's not dead," she said. "It's a political move."

Both Meier and Abernathy are running for mayor, along with incumbent Steve Lentz and fellow challenger Tom Ouimet.

Village officials don't know if the developers still intend to buy the land. A company representative couldn't be reached, nor could the Original Omega Restaurant's owner.

Gerald Callaghan, an attorney who had represented GMX in the matter, said he didn't know what was next for the proposal now that it's been withdrawn.

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