Will redevelopment of Liberty Theater proceed in downtown Libertyville?

The potential redevelopment of the closed Liberty Theater and adjoining property on the north side of downtown Libertyville resurfaces Tuesday, when a proposal comes before the village board.

Whether or not a resolution can be reached in a process that began nearly a year ago is unknown; the plans are being submitted without any changes.

  A plan to repurpose the Liberty Theater and add buildings to the north and south as part of redevelopment featuring restaurants, retail and residential space in downtown Libertyville. (Paul Valade/, August 2023) Paul Valade/

The village board on Tuesday night will consider reports of the advisory historic preservation and appearance review commissions regarding building facades and other aspects for the property at 708 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Both panels have recommended denial of the current plan.

Vee Enterprise, on behalf of the 1.2-acre site’s owner, wants to redevelop the former theater for retail uses and a restaurant, build a single-story commercial building to the north and construct a three-story apartment building to the south.

Village officials generally supported redeveloping the theater and adjoining property after an informal presentation in August by Vee architect Manuel Velez.

But because the former theater is in a historic district, a certificate of appropriateness for exterior changes is needed. That led to extensive discussions and modifications from a modern style to something more in keeping with the theater's 1937 Art Deco roots.

The theater has been unoccupied for four years, and its presence on a main thoroughfare has been an issue for the village. The unnamed owner’s lack of response also has been of concern.

The board continued considering proposals in April to allow for a representative of ownership to be present.

Village officials have said the community supports the redevelopment but does not want to lose the history of the original theater; there has been a push for more architectural elements consistent with the original design.

Libertyville panel recommends against demolition of Liberty Theatre

The theater was extensively modified over time. At one point, Velez said the design was meant to “illustrate” the original 1937 style and reflect elements evident during the Art Deco period.

Among the remaining questions are whether the structures as proposed will fit the style and character of the downtown area. A common thread was the importance of the location as an entry to downtown and the need to have whatever is built be a good fit for the location.

The village board can accept the plan as submitted, deny it or approve it with conditions. If denied, the owners would have to restart the review process if they want to continue.

The meeting begins at 8 p.m. at village hall, 118 W. Cook Ave.

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