Developer promises unique workplace on ex-Motorola campus in Libertyville
Aside from the new sign, there isn't much evidence of activity at the vast, empty space that once housed Motorola Mobility on Route 45 south of Winchester Road in Libertyville.
But as the name suggests, Innovation Park Lake County is intended as the place for forward-thinking companies. From bowling alleys to bocce, bistros, massage therapists and fitness centers, Maryland-based developer BECO Management Inc. promises tenants a workplace "unlike any other anywhere," according to "Hello, Chicago," a company promotional video.
The last of 2,500 Motorola employees left the sprawling 1.2 million-square-foot campus for Chicago in April 2014. BECO came on board a few months later with the aim of re-imagining the campus for multiple companies that would sink deep roots.
A division called BECO Midwest was created to find tenants, with the template being the company's turnaround of a former IBM campus in Charlotte, North Carolina. Innovation Park Charlotte has a workforce of 6,500 and features a variety of heavy hitters, including Aon Hewitt, Siemens and Allstate.
In Libertyville, the company will add conference centers, a new gym, day care and game room among other amenities. About 90,000 square feet will be taken off the market, according to Mercedes Merritt, vice president of leasing for BECO South and BECO Midwest.
"At the end of the day, we'll be in it for $100 million," she said.
Merritt said the company has some "really strong prospects," but no announcements have been made regarding new tenants.
"We've had a lot of interest and we've had a lot of people who have, I would say, healthy skepticism -- 'Can they pull this off?'" she said. "We are so much less focused on when. We're focused on who," she said.
The campus is a series of connected buildings on 84 acres that housed a single user. Village officials appear happy with the strategy of seeking to fill the space with several businesses.
Hotels and some other local businesses are missing the built-in customer base Motorola offered.
"The biggest advantage to the village is that there will be multiple businesses in that location and in the event one of them moved or went out of business, the hit to the job market and local economy would not be substantial," Mayor Terry Weppler said. "It's a smart strategy -- you lose one business (and) you're not under water."
Heather Rowe, the village's economic development coordinator, said there's a benefit to having the buildings filled, and a significant number of employees do or will live here.
"They want to make sure it's a dynamic facility that speaks to the needs of the corporation in the area," Rowe said.
BECO Midwest has received recommendations of approval from two village commissions for exterior work, including a building addition and parking lot, driveway and landscape improvements.
The main feature is a two-story, 1,600-square-foot glass addition on the north side of the building to serve as a distinctive primary entrance for prospective tenants, guests and visitors.
"We're just glad to see them moving forward," said John Spoden, the village's director of community development. "This phase of it is fairly small but will have significant impact on the marketability of the site."
The village board will consider the plans June 9 and work could begin in early summer.