Salon awarded Libertyville’s first facade and property enhancement grant

Sometimes, inspiration comes when you least expect it. Ask Libertyville resident Natalie Kofler.

The co-owner of NV Salon & Spa, located in a strip center on Milwaukee Avenue for nearly 13 years, spotted a for sale sign at a vacant old house on the busy corner of Route 176 (Park Avenue) at Fourth Street.

“I was sitting at the stoplight one day and noticed it was zoned commercial,” she said. “It was meant to be.”

That sparked a reboot with a new name and location for Kofler and business partner Kelly White, who became owners rather than tenants. Studio 104, which opened in January, is named after the address of what for decades housed the International Harvester union hall.

Besides being a fresh start for the partners, the project also has been recognized by the village and is the first recipient of a facade and property enhancement grant. They will receive the maximum $25,000 as a match for planned exterior work estimated at about $52,000 as the finishing touches on the project.

“The Studio 104 project is very exciting, as the new owner is bringing new life and investment into a property that has sat idle for over a decade,” said Heather Rowe, the village’s economic development manager.

“This grant is helping to enable noticeable enhancements on a prominent corner off the Park Avenue commercial corridor, achieving the goal of the program,” she added.

Kofler bought the home in January 2023 and has done extensive renovation.

“It had been vacant for a really long time,” she said. “We completely redid the inside to make it into a salon — new water service, everything.”

Months of renovation were needed to bring the property up to code and make it functional for a salon, Kofler said.

Work included new windows and power washing the siding, and more is planned.

Libertyville offers 50/50 grants to grow business and enhance commercial buildings or sites

On Monday, the village’s appearance review commission recommended approval of new siding, soffit, fascia, landscaping, privacy fencing and a dumpster enclosure. The village board last week approved the grant pending that approval, and will be giving the official go ahead for Kofler to apply for permits for the exterior work.

“Updating the aesthetics of the building will appeal to more clientele and foot traffic, which will increase revenue, sales tax and sustained employment for Libertyville,” according to the grant application.

“So far, so good,” Kofler said. “We’re right on this busy little corner, so we get a lot of visibility.”

Village officials last fall authorized business resiliency and facade and property enhancement grant programs to strengthen existing businesses and encourage facade or site improvements in designated business corridors.

Officials budgeted $100,000 for the 2023-24 fiscal year ending April 30. However, businesses have 12 months to complete a project, so the village budgeted $200,000 for the current fiscal year to accommodate obligated payments and fund new projects, according to Rowe.

Property enhancement projects must be visible from an arterial road and include various upgrades. Resiliency grants are capped at $5,000 and limited to brick-and-mortar, sales tax-producing entities. Authorization occurs at the staff level while facade and property improvement is reviewed by the village board.

Rowe said staff has authorized seven resiliency grant projects for funding. The first approved payment was last week for construction of a new Lil' Ninjas gym at Ultimate Ninjas, 732 E. Park Ave.

Interior of a former vacant house on Park Avenue (Route 176) and Fourth Street in Libertyville after being converted to Studio 104. Courtesy of Natalie Kofler
Interior of the space before being converted for Studio 104 on Park Avenue (Route 176) in Libertyville. The project was the first recipient of a facade and property enhancement grant from the village Courtesy of Natalie Kofler
The interior of a former union hall on Park Avenue (Route 176) and Fourth Street in Libertyville was converted for Studio 104. It’s the first recipient of a facade and property enhancement grant from the village Courtesy of Natalie Kofler
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