Transformative Development: Dash Downers Grove Adds to Vibrancy

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Downers Grove, Ill., has a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly downtown. People are drawn to the variety of independent shops, restaurants and attractive green spaces. Dash Downers Grove, a seven-story, 167-unit apartment building, will support the lively downtown and benefit the community in multiple ways.

At Opus, we're doing more than developing, designing and building meaningful spaces. We reach across project boundaries to transform communities beyond steel and concrete. We've delivered millions of square feet of meaningful space across the country that brings significant and enduring value to countless communities.

Community – First and Foremost

Establishing and nurturing authentic relationships is vital to the way we work. When developing Dash Downers Grove, our team members worked with the usual stakeholders – municipalities, neighbors and the economic development authority. But this project had another important local player – a church.

Located across the street from Dash Downers Grove, First Baptist Church has been in the village for over 170 years.

“The land sale money provided the church with capital during the pandemic, which was a tough time for many churches with decreased tithing," said Paul Robertson, Senior Director of Real Estate Development. “In addition to helping bridge the financial gap, it allowed them to complete some projects they'd been considering for a while."

The church owned a parking lot that they sold for this project. Parking is essential for the church, so to ensure they didn't lose parking, we incorporated 71 reserved parking spaces for church use in the new parking ramp. 

Paul and Dean Newins, President & CEO of Architecture & Engineering, presented details about the land sale and parking to the entire congregation – about 98% voted in favor of moving forward.

“The value of our integrated one-team approach came into play," Paul said. “It was really powerful because we could tell them Opus was the developer, designer and builder. We could speak with one voice about the entire project from beginning to end."

Team members worked with the church for nearly three months to ensure they were comfortable with the parking design and flow.

“They had a seat at the table throughout the process of designing the project," Paul said. “In addition to parking, their feedback drove decisions up the apartment towers as well. They were important stakeholders." 

Dash Downers Grove also benefited the larger community in several ways. Economically, it increased real estate tax revenue for the Village of Downers Grove, which helps the school district, parks and other services while relieving some tax pressure on homeowners. Local merchants benefit from having 167 new households within walking distance of their storefronts, contributing to a thriving downtown.

We also know that patronage means a lot to small businesses. For the ribbon cutting celebration, food and beverages were ordered from area restaurants and breweries and VIP gift bags were filled with items from local merchants.

Adding in Community Philanthropy

Our projects like this also serve the community in ways that are less obvious.

Stewardship has always been a priority for us. Two Downers Grove area nonprofits received Opus Foundation grants to support their impactful work. Navigate Adolescence helps young people navigate relationships through social and emotional learning, and Parents Alliance Employment Project works to improve the lives of people with disabilities with employment services.

This last summer, our team and Greystar, Dash Downers Grove property management company, also supported the Rotary Club's annual summer fundraiser.

Physically Transforming Downtown

Dash Downers Grove is the third and final building on a block the Village of Downers Grove identified as significant.

“Dash Downers Grove serves as an anchor, rounding out and completing the block," said Paul. “Our teams designed it to visually complement the two buildings next door. It has physically transformed downtown, as envisioned in the Village's comprehensive plan." 

“Working closely with the Village helped us produce a better building, with many eyes looking at designs from different angles," said Theo Grothe, Senior Designer of Architecture. “The Village wanted a street wall façade along Maple Ave., creating more of an urban feel and connection with the other buildings. And there are single family homes across Washington St. on the east side, so they wanted the tower to transition down and scale back to street level, which we did with some significant step backs."

In the beginning, the Village had design guidelines that were somewhat traditional. “We wanted to do a more transitional design that was a bit cleaner, simpler and more contemporary," Theo said. “We communicated back and forth with them, modifying the design to fit with their guidelines while keeping the heart of our design intent. In the end, it worked great."

Theo says that's the power of the vertically integrated model at Opus. “We can get answers and pivot quickly when we need to. It's much easier than coordinating with multiple firms. We're all in the same boat rowing towards the same shore."

Being Good Neighbors

Dash Downers Grove is on a tight site on a high-profile corner. We understand that construction can be inconvenient for residents and visitors, so we plan ahead.

“As a team upfront, we study the logistics of the property and surrounding businesses and residences," said Joe Stubbs, Regional General Superintendent. “Once we have a plan, we sit down with all parties involved from the municipality and present it for feedback. The idea is to mitigate issues before they happen – preplanning is key."

Joe has been at Opus for 41 years, almost his entire career. He's led the construction of seven large projects and multiple tenant buildouts in Downers Grove.

“When I was hired at Opus, my very first project was in Downers Grove," Joe said. “From day one, we've always had great relationships with the Village. There's a lot of respect there – a mutual trusting relationship many years in the making. They know how we operate. And I think they appreciate that we involve them up front and communicate often throughout projects."

Local merchants had some concerns before construction began, since two projects done by other companies disrupted traffic to their businesses during the busy holiday shopping season. Joe and his team worked closely with them to ensure everyone was comfortable with plans to mitigate problems before they happened.

“Joe and the field crew ensured our activity didn't disrupt their businesses," said Paul. “If issues came up, they were resolved right away. We heard nothing but good things from the merchants and the trade organization that represented them."

That's because we care.

“Being true to your word is key," said Joe. “I always tell my team in the field – don't say you're going to do something and then not follow through. Always be honest and communicate often with members of the community who may be affected by what we are doing." 

(Doing what we say we do is part of our integrity value. Learn more about our values here.)

Dash Downers Grove began welcoming residents in May 2023.