The Forsythe family, led by an executive in the energy industry and their business partners, will pay the village of Long Grove $1 million for four vacant properties downtown, a deal that would end about a six-year search for a buyer -- and that could bring new construction intended to expand the retail footprint of the historic district to the southeast.
Long Grove trustees on Tuesday night unanimously approved the agreement for the long-awaited sale of the Archer Road lots between the Fountain Square shops, also owned by the Forsythes, and the fire station. The contract should take more than a month to close.
Before Tuesday's pact, the Forsythes and their business partners had bought a whopping 17 buildings in the quaint downtown, many of them specialty shops once owned by another family, the Mangels, who founded Long Grove Confectionery.
"I know there's a lot of people that have voiced strong reservations that there would be a majority property owner," Village President Angie Underwood said. "But this is not something that's novel to Long Grove."
Village leaders say the sale shows the Forsythes' continued optimism in a downtown with a vacancy problem.
"Everyone says the downtown, because they identify with it ... they say the downtown looks sad," Trustee George Yaeger said later in the meeting.
But the family has its skeptics. With the support of several restaurant owners, Gerald Forsythe petitioned the village to overturn a ban on video gambling, upsetting some residents who say the terminals don't gel with Long Grove's rural charm. Trustees first upheld the ban and briefly considered polling residents through an advisory question on last November's ballot. The board finally decided on a trial run that will expire this spring.
Under the terms of the agreement inked Tuesday, the family's limited liability company, Long Grove Investments, has 90 days to perform their due diligence on the land. During that period, they can look into the availability of video gambling licenses for the site.
Gerald Forsythe's daughter, Marsha, who lives in Long Grove and signed the agreement, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The Forsythes haven't pitched specific tenants for the lots, Underwood said, but they do hope to lure new restaurants. With that in mind, trustees have said they want to use the money from the sale toward bringing public water to the lots from a well the village built for the Sunset Grove shopping center a half mile away.
The proposed connection would form a loop that runs from Route 83 to Old McHenry Road and Robert Parker Coffin Drive, down Archer Road and then to a new senior living center planned for the corner of routes 83 and 53.
Officials haven't pinpointed the cost or the connection fees that businesses along the loop would pay to tap into public water.
"Restaurants need good water and lots of it," Underwood said. "So getting the water lines into those properties will be a high priority once that sale goes through."
The village started looking for a buyer in 2008, when the board decided to downsize and remodel the parking lot on what is now Archer Road, freeing up space for the four "building pads" in an attempt to attract developers, especially those who want to build restaurants. At best, village planners envisioned as many as four new buildings with up to 28,000 square feet of retail space.