Lakemoor looks to intersection to spur development
During the past few years, Lakemoor officials have been working to change the village's image to that of a progressive community with a vision for the future.
Be it a revised and updated comprehensive plan or hiring the village's first director of community and economic development, each step has been designed with a bigger picture in mind.
While many irons remain in the fire, a main focus is on the busy corner of routes 12 and 120, a potential game-changing area and catalyst for the other projects. With a population of about 6,000, Lakemoor is tiny but it has big aspirations and is going on the offensive to try and achieve them.
"We're doing a lot of multi-tasking here in order to gain momentum and get some development to the community," Village Administrator David Alarcon said.
One of those actions could lead to the creation of a special taxing district to help make that happen, officials said.
"We'll use any tools necessary. Anything at our disposal," Mayor Todd Weihofen said.
The main thoroughfares of routes 12 and 120 are traveled by an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 vehicles each day. While there are businesses on or near three of the four corners at the intersection, there is room and interest for more, village officials say. However, development of the 74-acre corn field on the southwest corner is considered the key that could generate a bounty of future tax revenues.
"This is a very important corner for the village of Lakemoor. We feel all development starts there," said Matt Dabrowski, director of community and economic development. "It will be a catalyst for the rest of the Route 120 corridor."
The biggest obstacle to growth in the area is the lack of municipal sewer and water. Businesses on three of the corners have their own well and septic systems, which limits what can be done with the properties. There are no utilities at all on the southwest corner, Dabrowski said.
Extending utilities to those sites could be a lure for new arrivals. But with an estimated cost of $8 million to $10 million, and the possibility other incentives will be needed to prime the development pump, the village will search for new sources of cash.
To that end the village has hired Kane, McKenna and Associates, Inc., a Chicago firm specializing in economic development, to take a look. The firm is gathering data to determine, among other possibilities, if the area could meet state criteria to be designated as a Tax Increment Financing district.
"The driving force is to create a new revenue stream to help cover the cost of off-site improvements that need to be extended to the intersection," Dabrowski said. "One option to fund it is through the TIF. There could be other ways," including a public/private partnership, he added.
In a TIF, property values on which taxes to various entities are calculated are frozen. But taxes are paid on the higher value as the land is improved and put into a special fund for a variety of uses within the designated TIF area.
"I know it's controversial (but) we have to do the study and see if it's even feasible," Weihofen said.
Other potential economic development programs include special service areas, tax abatements, sales tax sharing or business districts, according to Nick Greifer, a financial analyst and vice president at Kane, McKenna. The study is in "the very early stages," he added.
More detailed studies would be needed if the village board decides to proceed, Dabrowski said.
"We're not just doing it for the southwest corner, we're doing it for the whole intersection," he said. "But certainly, the southwest corner is extremely important to the economic development of Lakemoor and the region."
That corner, like an area nearby across Route 12 in Volo, long has been envisioned as a retail center, but prospects have been stalled by the economic downturn. Is the outlook better?
"We're trying to capitalize and reinvigorate the project," said Michael Fitzgerald, vice president and director of leasing for Inland Real Estate Corporation, which owns the southwest corner. "I would say interest is positively medium -- better than it was three years ago."
The site is considered large and could hold up to 500,000 square feet of retail uses, he added.
"Market conditions have improved," Fitzgerald said. "We like the future of the project but something of this size and scope doesn't happen overnight."
It is too early to say whether an incentive would be sought from the village, he added, although "TIF and new construction certainly go hand in hand these days."
Dabrowski said details, such as road improvements for routes 12 and 120, would need to be addressed in a redevelopment plan.