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Green From Birth


The Arboretum of South Barrington is embracing its natural heritage. The 600,000-sq.-ft. open-air lifestyle center, opened in September 2008, is located on a site that was once a tree farm. Not only is the center named for the treescapes and gardens of its landscape, but it has incorporated its predecessor’s inherent greenness on a massive scale.

Developed by The Jaffe Cos., Northbrook, Ill., in a joint venture with New York City-based RREEF Alternative Investments, The Arboretum, in South Barrington, Ill., features what is described as one of the largest and richest shopping center landscapes in the country. Contractors planted 2,700 trees of 80 different species, as well as 30,000 shrubs, perennials and grasses on the 86 acres, once part of Klehm’s Nursery.

“The greenness of The Arboretum of South Barrington is consistent with our values and the values of the community,” said Mike Jaffe, president, Jaffe Cos. “It costs a lot of money to build green, but it leaves the world a better place.”

Although The Arboretum of South Barrington is situated at a major four-way interstate highway interchange, shoppers don’t experience any hustle and bustle. Rather, they are surrounded by an environment inspired by nature.

But the Arboretum is far more than a heavily landscaped shopping center. It is a full-scale environmental project that has devoted a 19-acre parcel to a stormwater management/wetlands mitigation basin. The wetlands project grew out of negotiations for permits from several natural resource agencies, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Cook County Forest Preserve, a 4,000-acre preserve downstream from the Arboretum.

“Being linked to thousands of acres of forest preserves and wetlands meant that it was imperative that we take extreme care to preserve wetland functions and water quality,” said Jaffe.

A back-area pond is fronted by two bioswale areas that catch water runoff from the retail center and filter it before it gets to the pond. Two rock-lined plunge pools, each about 20,000 sq. ft., dissipate erosion or washout problems.

“The water-cleansing system we developed is a best-management practice,” Jaffe explained. “We created amidst our detention pond a stream of native grasses and other native plants for filtering purposes, and that scrubbed runoff is released into yet another pond with stream beds of grasses and native plants that scrub it again.”

Before the water is released downstream, a man-made filter scrubs out most of the remaining particles.

The wetlands project is about 85% complete, said Jaffe. “Because we opened the center in September, the plants didn’t have a chance to take in the Chicago winter. This spring, a massive planting effort is completing the remainder of the project.”

Besides the large-scale wetlands, The Arboretum also features open space connected to lengthy bike and walking paths that link to the South Barrington conservation district, a 32-acre adjacent parcel in a relatively native state. A tenant-required recycling program includes an innovative system for recycling grease: An outside firm buys grease waste from the restaurants, hauls it off and recycles the grease into fuel.

“We researched this program in advance and made it a point to incorporate it into our center,” said Jaffe.

Tenants have embraced the center’s sustainable philosophy as well. L.L. Bean, which made its Midwest debut at The Arboretum, is on track to receive LEED Silver certification this year. It uses the adjacent conservation district for fly-fishing demonstrations and the open spaces for a variety of outdoor expeditions.

The center’s Tudor design also references the environment and the site’s history, with leaf impressions in stone demarking various shopping zones. Even sewer grates are leaf-shaped to recall the tree farm the site once was.

The Arboretum is also home to an upscale mix of fashion apparel brands; home furnishings; restaurants; Pinstripes, a bowling, bocce and bistro concept; and Village Roadshow Gold Class Cinemas, a luxury cinema experience.

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