Transit-oriented community pitched in Libertyville
A proposed townhouse community in what is considered a prime undeveloped spot near the commuter station in downtown Libertyville has the informal thumbs-up from village leaders.
The so-called transit-oriented development would feature 80 townhouses on land west of Brainerd Avenue and south of the Metra tracks in an urban-style setting with pedestrian and bicycle links to surrounding areas.
M/I Homes of Naperville this week outlined preliminary aspects of its Liberty Station community during an informal village board session to gauge the interest and concerns of local officials. Village plan commission members also attended.
"I think the overall feeling is it's very positive. We like it," Mayor Terry Weppler said.
As proposed, the development would feature two- and three-bedroom units of 1,800 to 2,200 square feet. Typical prices would begin in the high $200,000 range.
"We were definitely encouraged by the response," said Matthew Pagoria, vice president of land acquisition for M/I Homes. "It seemed they were very receptive with what we came up with."
General questions regarding the quality of building materials, path system, access from Lake Street and screening of adjoining properties, for example, were raised but none appeared to be deal breakers. However, a proposed land swap with the village that calls for far fewer new commuter parking spaces than in an agreement with the current property owner will have to be forged.
Village officials also would like to see as many trees as possible saved. Most of the nearly 600 trees of 6-inch diameter or larger on the site would need to be removed because they are of low quality, according to the plan.
Landscaping, engineering, and building plans, as well as costs associated with the land swap and other details, will be packaged and submitted for the official review process. The village will ask M/I to meet with neighbors before it applies.
"We're ready to take it to the next step," Pagoria said.
The company has a contract to purchase 7 undeveloped acres known as the Trimm property, the former location of a company that moved 10 years ago. The building was demolished but a legal logjam ensued between the village and the owner, Newton Instrument Co., involving contaminated soil.
That was resolved in 2006, in a unique settlement agreement that gave Newton the ability to develop as many as 130 condos or townhouses and the village free land to expand commuter parking by 200 spaces. No development ensued and if M/I buys the land, a new agreement with that company would be forged.
M/I wants to trade 1.5 acres of its land to be used for 94 new commuter parking spaces for about 2 acres of village property on which the residences would be built.
The agreement with Newton also specified 15 percent of the units be considered affordable, and that would remain in place if M/I proceeds.
"There are a lot of things we acknowledge have to happen. We're willing if you're willing to go down that road," Pagoria told the village board.
The Trimm property is considered a key in the area north and west of Lake Street and Milwaukee Avenue, which is envisioned as a pedestrian-oriented mix of uses.
"It's very important in terms of the first phase of redevelopment in that area. We're very concerned that anything (built) fits in with the downtown," said John Spoden, the village's community development director.
The M/I proposal is less dense than one ironically also called Liberty Station presented in a similar fashion to the village board in April 2012.
That idea, led by the developer of the SchoolStreet neighborhood downtown, also envisioned a transit-oriented community involving Trimm and other properties. It was to include apartments, offices, and restaurants but never materialized.
Liberty Station would be the first project in Lake County for M/I Homes, which operates in 10 states and entered the Chicago market in 2007.