Libertyville long has been known for its auto dealers, but now interest has arisen in locating an upscale motorcycle dealership in the heart of downtown.
A partnership fronted by Gurnee resident Donald O'Shea has received a favorable recommendation from the village's plan commission for a zoning amendment allowing motorcycle dealers as a special permitted use in the downtown business district.
While the change would apply to all properties in the core commercial area, the potential site of the proposed dealership is the former Arden's Furniture & Design at 416 N. Milwaukee Ave., across from Cook Park.
O'Shea and his partners, including Village Trustee Todd Gaines, say the 8,124-square-foot space isn't suitable for many uses because of its large size and parking limitations.
"We thought there were many positive reasons that building makes sense," Gaines said.
Arden's closed more than three years ago after operating for 37 years in the spot originally built as an A&P grocery store.
Mark Khayat, who also owns Austin's Saloon and Eatery on the north side of town, bought the building and initially suggested a restaurant as a possible use. The interior has been gutted, but nothing further done. Khayat was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
The potential for a large restaurant there added to the angst of village officials concerned about parking downtown. With several other new eateries, the area has become so busy at times that parking can be difficult, and the village is pursuing a plan to build a second parking deck.
The trend downtown has been upscale shopping and dining, and the zoning text amendment "will allow an upscale vehicle sales showroom consistent with the businesses in the area," according to information provided to the village.
Because it is so large, the uses for the space are limited, the village was told.
As early as 1951, the village plan noted that used car lots were not considered to be compatible in the retail area. At that time, auto sales existed at five downtown sites, including the current Manchester Square development at Lake Street and Milwaukee Avenue, and Mickey Finn's brewery at 345 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The village created a separate zoning district and began moving auto dealers to an area along Milwaukee south of downtown, in what has become known as the Mile of Cars.
Among the proposed conditions recommended for the motorcycle dealership is that it operate entirely within an enclosed building with no outdoor display, sales or storage.
Gaines said the use would have a low impact on parking, generate foot traffic and essentially be like any other retail space. He stressed there was no agreement in place but talks continue with a high-end brand that would be limited to street bikes.
"The text amendment is the precursor" and a way to gauge official opinion on that use in that area, he said. Gaines plans to recuse himself when the village board considers the zoning amendment.