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updated: 5/20/2014 5:59 PM

MainStreet Libertyville wants to build permanent home in Cook Park

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  • MainStreet Libertyville will be working with the village to build a permanent office downtown in Cook Park.

      MainStreet Libertyville will be working with the village to build a permanent office downtown in Cook Park.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer


MainStreet Libertyville's first permanent home will be situated in the heart of downtown, an area the volunteer organization has worked to improve for 25 years.

Plans are in progress, but the intent is for a new stand-alone building to be used as an office and visitors' center adjacent to the Ansel B. Cook mansion and museum. The 1878 Victorian-style home is the focal point of Cook Park, a popular gathering place for a variety of events.

MainStreet, which promotes historical preservation and economic development in the downtown area rents space in an office building at 160 E. Cook Ave. That building is for sale, and organization officials decided to seek an alternative instead of being faced with moving again.

Unofficial talks with the village led them to Cook Park, the site of many of the organization's sponsored activities, such as Out to Lunch, Car Fun on 21 and the farmers market.

"We thought `Wouldn't it be nice to have our own home?'" said Jeff Lovinger, MainStreet president.

MainStreet representatives last fall toured the Cook mansion but realized an office wouldn't fit, he said. Surveying the scene as they were leaving, a decision was made to see if a project in the park itself was feasible.

"We really wanted to be a little more visible than we have been," Lovinger said.

The project was announced this past weekend at an invitation-only gala to celebrate the 25th anniversary.

The village board has agreed to the concept, Mayor Terry Weppler said, and MainStreet will proceed with detailed planning.

"They've always rented, and they never wanted to take up a retail space in the downtown," he said. "They'll come in with some drawings and proposals."

The 1,800-square-foot structure would house the MainStreet office, meeting space and a visitors' welcome center, either north or south of the mansion.

"We're looking into possibly doing recycled bricks from the Brainerd center," Lovinger said. "It's really a community building."

He said the estimated cost is $200,000 to $250,000 to be paid in cash by MainStreet, which intends to host a fundraising campaign. The goal is to break ground this fall, he added.

"It's not a Taj Mahal," Lovinger said of the planned office. "It's a functional building that looks really great in Cook Park."

The MainStreet concept was pioneered in the 1970s by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Libertyville's organization was founded under that auspices and is considered among the strongest in Illinois.

That was not the case six years ago when MainStreet Libertyville nearly folded because of a cash crunch. Membership now stands at about 950 businesses and individuals.

"We're strong," Lovinger said.

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