Most of us recognize Future World as a part of Epcot Center in Disney World, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to a futuristic development that was actually drawn up for Schaumburg Township in 1968. The plan was incorporated under the Schaumburg Planet Corp. and was the vision of its president, Lee N. Romano. A local architect and developer, Mr. Romano, approached the Village of Schaumburg with a development called Outer Planets.
The plan was scheduled to include the world’s tallest office building, a 65-story motor inn, 4000 apartments in various buildings and a 7-floor department store. Approximately 20,000 to 25,000 people would work there and the apartment units would house 8000 to 9000 residents. Moving sidewalks and horizontal escalators would carry people within “this exciting city of the future.” One of the unique aspects of this plan was the fact that it would be built on top of an underground platform that consisted of levels for parking to accommodate 40,000 cars, utilities, transit systems and other service facilities!
It was to be developed to the tune of $150 million on a 238-acre parcel on the southwest corner of Higgins Road and Route 53. “I feel Schaumburg will be the hub of the future metropolis,” Mr. Romano stated at his meeting with the Zoning Board on July 10, 1968. (Daily Herald, 7/12/1968) At the time this land was not part of the village of Schaumburg and annexation would have to occur before any development started. In addition, a 13-acre lake would be dug along the southwestern boundary between Schaumburg and Higgins Road for recreational and water retention purposes. Buried underneath the lake would be the total energy vaults of the concept.
There were issues that needed to be resolved before annexation was approved. Nearby Lexington Fields residents were not happy about the nearness of the project and the disturbances it would bring as well as the future performance of their wells. They also requested that the plan include no supermarkets or discount stores. The village was also concerned with the future development of the highways nearby and how the project would be configured around them. This, of course, tied in with the village’s concern with the traffic this development would generate.
Once the village and Lexington Fields residents were assured, Mr. Romano successfully obtained zoning for the project in 1968 after Mayor Atcher stated, “No large city in the world has ever had a proposal of this magnitude, to say nothing of a suburb…This isn’t the normal type of development, but I’ve always contended that Schaumburg isn’t the normal type of suburb. The Northeast corner of Schaumburg will be a core area to a four-township area. This isn’t the kind of thing that’s proposed daily, weekly or every hundred years.” (Daily Herald, 9/15/1968)
Development was supposed to begin with Phase 1 in 1969 with the construction of the 7-story apartment building, underground parking and the commercial area. The other phases would be built over a period of 10 years. His plan was upset, however, when the state needed 20 of his first 86 acres to connect Interstate 90 and Route 53. Those acres were eventually sold for $500,000 but caused the project to languish for a few years. In fact, the project was removed from Schaumburg’s development plans in 1971 after no development activity occurred.
He approached the village again in 1973 with another plan that added additional 66-acre and 74-acre parcels to the development and, again, zoning rights were granted. By this time the optimistic plan called for “a space needle, 30 buildings ranging from 22 to 70 stories, an 80-story hotel, a 126-story office and residential building and a ‘people mover.” (Daily Herald, 3/25/1976) The people mover would have been necessary too. The development was to house 70, 000 and employ another 30,000!
By 1975, however, it was apparent Mr. Romano was in financial difficulty and did not have the resources to begin construction. The zoning approval had lapsed once again for lack of any construction and Mr. Romano began the process of selling the land. Outer Planets would have been an ambitious plan with powerful impact for the Village of Schaumburg. Just think how the landscape would be today with a space needle alá Seattle visible for miles…