Freed from recession, Lake County towns now focused on growth
While their leaders say they continue to closely watch spending, the shackles of the recession have been shed when it comes to development in the four Lake County communities that comprise the GLMV Chamber of Commerce.
Top elected leaders in Green Oaks, Libertyville, Mundelein and Vernon Hills reported a variety of ongoing residential and commercial projects Wednesday during the chamber's annual "Ask the Mayors" luncheon.
All four towns have been active with recent and planned ribbon cuttings for projects such as retirement communities, restaurants, shopping centers and even a parking deck, representing new construction and major investments in existing space.
"In all four villages, there's been a lot of activity in business growth recently," said Libertyville Mayor Terry Weppler.
Examples in Libertyville include the completion of a new downtown parking deck, opening of new restaurants and other businesses, as well as a 56-unit townhouse community on Winchester Road and arrivals at the Bridgepoint 94 industrial park on Route 176, he said.
Topping the village's wish list is redevelopment of the driving range and other land on the market at the Libertyville Sports Complex.
"We're not looking at residential (there), but anything else, we're open," Weppler said.
Filling the sprawling former Motorola campus on Route 45 is second on the list, he said.
Senior living facilities under construction on Rockland Road and Waukegan Road are anchors of the special financing district Green Oaks established in 2015 to address blighted areas, Mayor Bernard Wysocki said.
Other new or expanding business in the small village include Post Time Sports Bar and Grille off-track betting facility in a former bowling alley, North Shore Distillery, and Jessup Manufacturing, he said.
Wysocki cited the high-achieving Rondout 72 and Oak Grove 68 school districts and lack of a municipal property tax among the reasons Green Oaks has been ranked among the best suburbs to live.
Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz was asked if his extremely close re-election would alter his vision going forward.
Lentz defeated challenger Holly Kim by just five votes in the April 4 contest.
"Just truckin' along and putting the pedal to the metal on redevelopment," he said.
The village has an innovative incentive program, he said, to help with landscaping, facade improvements, or sales or property tax rebates.
"It pretty much puts everything on the table," he said of the program.
Redevelopment of the Hawley Lake Plaza shopping area, the Fairhaven Crossing residential project, and the opening of a Jewel Food Store in a former Dominick's space have been big improvements in the center of town, he said.
Pending projects include the Transitional Care of Lake County skilled nursing facility, the Maple Hill residential plan, and a residential/retail proposal at the municipal plaza, he said.
In Vernon Hills, officials approved a $20 million bond issue Tuesday that will fund improvements associated with the Mellody Farm retail/residential development at routes 60 and 21.
That includes $4.4 million for major roadwork, said Vernon Hills Mayor Roger Byrne.
"That whole intersection will take on a new character and improve the flow of traffic," he said.
But it wasn't all good news. As he has on several previous occasions, Weppler chastised Springfield lawmakers for threatening to pry money from municipalities to solve the state's financial problems.
"I think the biggest problem facing all of us ... is the state," he said.