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updated: 1/17/2012 12:37 PM

New use for former Lake County forest district headquarters

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  • The former Lake County Forest Preserve District headquarters in a 1920s-era house off Milwaukee Avenue north of Libertyville will be used as a construction office.

      The former Lake County Forest Preserve District headquarters in a 1920s-era house off Milwaukee Avenue north of Libertyville will be used as a construction office.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer, 20


A former country home used for 35 years as general offices by the Lake County Forest Preserve District will get some new residents and a temporary stay of demolition.

Pending approval by the forest board Tuesday, Walsh Construction Company will use the home and parking lot east of Milwaukee Avenue near Libertyville as an office and equipment staging area beginning about March 1.

In November, Walsh was awarded the $23 million main construction contract to include widening Milwaukee Avenue at and north of Route 137 in what is expected to be a particularly disruptive project.

In exchange for use of the facilities, Walsh will demolish the building, remove the parking lot and restore the property at no cost -- a saving of about $50,000, district officials say.

That arrangement came about after the district advertised extensively for a licensee but found no appropriate organization willing to take over.

"We had a few nibbles but once people saw the age and condition and all the work that needed to be done, they went away," explained Mike Tully, director of operations and public safety for the district. "We crammed 60 people in there as an office space. It took a beating and it wasn't going to last much longer."

Last October, the forest district left the 1920s-era home in the Independence Grove Forest Preserve, once owned by meat packing executive David Armour. The main office was among eight scattered operations consolidated in the former Motorola office building at 1899 West Winchester Road, Libertyville.

Tully said an estimate several years ago put the cost of getting the building in shape at $300,000. With no use for the building, the forest board's finance committee recommended demolition.

In the interim, Walsh was approached about using it as a home base during construction, which is expected to last about 18 months.

"They have to completely take the building down, remove the parking area and restore the site to our specifications," said Tom Hahn, the district's executive director.

Years on the wish list, it wasn't until Lake County officials decided to pay for the work on the state route that widening the last two-lane segment of Milwaukee Avenue came off the drawing board.

Aside from widening that segment to south of Route 120, the project involves: widening and rebuilding the intersection at Route 137; replacing a bridge over Bull Creek; building a trail underpass south of Casey Road; building four detention ponds; installing a sidewalk on the east side of Milwaukee from Route 120 to Casey Road and on the west side from Merit Club to Route 137; and other work.

"It's one of those areas you probably want to stay away from," Hahn said.

Libertyville officials recently attended a pre-construction meeting, where they emphasized the intersection work be done as quickly as possible to minimize disruption to businesses.

"They (Walsh) seemed to be tuned in to what our concerns are -- they've done a lot of big jobs," said John Heinz, Libertyville public works director.

The Illinois Department of Transportation, which is managing the project, expects work to be complete by summer 2013.

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