Developer David Smith was supposed to be the guy to lead downtown Lake Zurich's renaissance when he struck a deal with village government in 2009.
His Barrington-based Equity Services Group had pitched a five-story lakefront retail and condominium as the revitalization centerpiece. It advanced to a point in 2010 when he spoke at a downtown development meeting and said he had a shortlist of public relations firms to tout his "new lifestyle creation."
But Smith's two-year relationship with Lake Zurich dissolved in January 2011 after the village board refused to grant him an extension to obtain $12.5 million he owed as part of a deal giving him the right to redevelop large sections of downtown. The agreement between Smith and the village became void because he didn't meet a deadline to deliver the money.
Now, Smith is pitching a new idea but says he never has been out of the picture in Lake Zurich.
Smith said he wants to convert an old Bank of America building, on Main Street just west of Old Rand Road, into a two-level restaurant with wine caves and other dining options. Visible work has been done to gut the structure's interior since a village demolition permit recently was obtained.
"We're going through our fourth iteration in design development right now, and it's come together really well. And then the best (completion) estimate will be sometime about a year from now," Smith told the Daily Herald.
He is among the developers who have been unable to make progress on revving downtown Lake Zurich for more than 10 years. After months of feasibility studies, the village board in March 2002 approved boundaries for a special taxing district that was supposed to lure developers to the downtown, but nothing significant has occurred because of the weak economy and other factors.
What's different for his latest go-round in Lake Zurich, Smith said, is he has partnered with Gary Rosenberg's Urban R2 Development Co. Rosenberg's resume includes developing a downtown Chicago high-rise designed by noted architect Helmut Jahn.
"Gary's pedigree -- it's well worth looking up -- makes mine look paltry," said Smith, who points to his development of The Garlands of Barrington retirement community as one of his career achievements.
Smith said the Bank of America building in downtown Lake Zurich would be converted into an upscale two-story restaurant with wine caves, a second eatery geared for families and an "amazing" coffee shop and bakery. Plans call for a one-story addition to the structure.
"It's going to have rooftop dining as well," he said.
Lake Zurich officials have yet to receive formal plans from Smith that would launch him into the village's approval process. Mayor Thomas Poynton said he's familiar with Smith's concept for the bank.
"I have seen drawings of a layout and I have seen pictures of other places," Poynton said.
Meanwhile, Rosenberg said he and Smith may have interest if Lake Zurich seeks requests for developer credentials and proposals regarding a publicly owned 2-acre downtown site overlooking the village's namesake lake. Trustee Jim Beaudoin said the village owes it to residents to gain the best deal for the property.
Developer John Breugelmans had the inside track for the land after receiving exclusivity for more than 75 days to show he could get the job done. However, at a meeting Oct. 7, the village board rejected Breugelmans' offer to pay $10 for the land that cost taxpayers $3.6 million to purchase.
Breugelmans had pitched a 66-unit apartment building with a restaurant, coffee shop and hair salon. He said he won't participate if, as expected, the village solicits other developers for the parcel.
He also reminded elected officials about Smith's collapsed effort to remake much of downtown.
"David Smith had plans that were exorbitant in investment and could never make it," Breugelmans said.
The lack of construction activity downtown has Poynton and other officials voicing concern about $28 million in debt associated with the long-stalled downtown redevelopment. Some of that debt stems from the village's purchases of properties within the special taxing district designed to help finance redevelopment.
Rosenberg said he and Smith would be open to development suggestions from Lake Zurich officials if they pursue the lakefront site. Rosenberg introduced himself to the village board during its meeting last week.
"Our objectives are to do whatever will best (provide) a total solution for the greatest, most serviceable, most exciting venues for the whole village," he said.