Long-idle property near busy corner in Libertyville approved for townhouses, commercial use

A prominent but long-idle property near a heavily traveled intersection in Libertyville will be developed as a townhouse community.

After more than a year, Liberty Junction - a project for 80 townhouses in 16 buildings south and west of Milwaukee Avenue and Route 137 - has received the required village approvals with site work to follow next month.

Approved plans for the irregularly-shaped property behind and between the Ace Hardware store and Wildberry restaurant also call for the creation of a development-ready commercial lot along Milwaukee Avenue, improved and expanded parking for Wildberry and construction of a road to connect Adler Drive with Route 137. Two applicants are seeking different uses under a single plan for the site.

"The next phase is site development and building permits," said John Spoden, community development director.

The 15-acre property is the former site of the 1950s-era Hitch-Inn Post motel, which after additions brought it to a peak of 144 rooms before it closed in 2005. The buildings were demolished in 2010.

Village officials consider the area to be a prime spot for redevelopment, but it has remained vacant and idle. There have been many inquires over the years but nothing materialized, Spoden said.

Liberty Junction has been pursued by Chicago-based ILM Homes Inc.

"It took the remarkably close collaboration of the village, the owner of Wildberry restaurant, the property owners and us to meet the goals of everyone and obtain the approvals," said ILM President Moises Cukierman.

"This corner is the gateway to Libertyville. The land has been vacant, fallow and unattractive for 15 years," he added. "The approved development will forever significantly improve the appearance of this entrance to the village."

During public hearings, homeowners to the south were concerned about commercial and other traffic, density and height of the townhouses and the potential impact of more children on local schools.

ILM reduced the number of townhouses from 90 to 80, reoriented buildings on the west side of the property, added open space and reduced the number of detention areas among other adjustments.

The village board Tuesday voted 5-1 to rezone the 12-acre portion for residential use, approve a final plan for the overall site and development agreements, which outline the parties' responsibilities.

"The builder has done a good job of compromising in bringing down the number of units they wanted so I think it's a good fit for that location," Trustee Dan Love said.

Trustee Matthew Krummick voted against saying Liberty Junction had many more residential units than envisioned the village's 2030 plan.

Mayor Donna Johnson said that plan provided a baseline not a hard cap.

ILM may have shepherded the project but plans to sell its interest to Pulte Home Company LLC, which will build the project and must abide by the approved development agreement.

Matt Goetz, vice president of land for Pulte in Illinois, said the townhouses will be of the same quality as The Residences at Cuneo Mansion and Gardens in Vernon Hills. The company also has projects in Lincolnshire, Mundelein and Lindenhurst.

Site map of the new uses planned for the former site of a 1950s-era hotel near Route 137 an Milwaukee Avenue. Courtesy of ILM Homes Inc.
This is a rendering of one of the townhouse buildings planned for Liberty Junction in Libertyville. Courtesy of ILM Homes Inc.
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