Mundelein mayoral candidates discuss downtown redevelopment
Two of the three candidates running for mayor in Mundelein support the village's vision for the ongoing redevelopment of the downtown area, but the third panned the efforts.
Mayor Steve Lentz spoke enthusiastically about the plans for downtown Wednesday during a group candidate interview with the Daily Herald.
Trustee Holly Kim said she backs village hall's vision for the area, too, but believes officials can do better.
Former plan commissioner Ray Ladewig was much more critical. He said the current focus on land south of Hawley Street has left some wondering exactly where Mundelein's downtown is located.
Lentz, Kim and Ladewig are competing for a four-year term in the April 4 election.
Lentz, who was elected mayor in 2013 after four years as a trustee, expressed pride in the board's 2010 decision to buy the Sigma Services Corp. building south of Hawley Street and east of Seymour Avenue, raze it and develop the land into what's now called Plaza Circle.
Village hall opened at 300 Plaza Circle in 2014 and remains the only building there, but additional buildings have been proposed by developers. Most recently, a performing arts center was suggested for the block.
Farr Associates, the Chicago consulting firm that came up with the Plaza Circle concept, is now developing a plan for the businesses north of Hawley Street -- the area historically considered Mundelein's downtown.
Lentz called it a "revisioneering."
"We're coming in for a landing on that plan," he said. "I'm very interested in the details of that."
Ladewig, who served on the plan commission from 2002 to 2015, said the Plaza Circle plan "looked like a really great project" at first, but now he's unhappy with the lack of activity since village hall opened.
"I want to see people start digging." he said. "Start building."
Ladewig said the promotion of the Plaza Circle area has shifted attention away from the merchants north of Hawley Street.
"The guys that are still there ... were left hung out to dry," Ladewig said.
Some residents are unclear of the downtown's boundaries because of the southern focus, Ladewig said.
"We need to establish a ground zero and build from the center out," he said.
Kim, who joined the village board in 2013, said she supports the plans for the downtown area. Residents need to know there is a "playbook" that lays out possible developments there, she said.
Kim also said she backs recent efforts to bring a mix of apartments, restaurants and stores to the area.
"That's kind of the new model," she said.
She'd also like to see different real estate developers propose downtown projects instead of the same firms "over and over."
"Any financial person will tell you that diversification of your portfolio is key," she said.
Like Ladewig, Kim talked about the geographical divide between the northern and southern parts of the downtown area. Officials are working to bring them together, she said.