Downtown Metra lot repair on hold after development fizzles

  • The proposed Station Square development adjacent to the Metra station in downtown Libertyville has been withdrawn.

    The proposed Station Square development adjacent to the Metra station in downtown Libertyville has been withdrawn. Courtesy of R.M. Swanson Architects, June 2017

  • Work on a renovated Metra commuter station in downtown Libertyville last summer. The station now is complete but the parking lot needs repair.

      Work on a renovated Metra commuter station in downtown Libertyville last summer. The station now is complete but the parking lot needs repair. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer, June 2019

 
 
Updated 12/13/2019 5:04 PM

Another proposed development for a long empty industrial property adjacent to the Metra station in busy downtown Libertyville has fizzled, leaving substantial repairs of the commuter lot on hold.

At issue is 7 acres once occupied by Trimm Inc., a former manufacturing plant that was closed and relocated in 2003.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The strategically located property has been an elusive potential development site since 2006, when the village in an agreement with the landowner, Newton Instrument Co., gave the go-ahead to build as many as 130 condos or townhouses.

Libertyville originally offered to buy the property for $2.4 million but was rebuffed after lowering the offer to $2 million because of soil contamination. A lawsuit and countersuit ensued leading to the settlement.

Since then, grand plans have come and gone, in part because of the work needed to allow homes to be built on the site.

"It's tough because of the contaminated soil," Mayor Terry Weppler said of development on the property.

The third and most recent plan was presented in summer 2017 by then-Lake Forest architect/developer Rick Swanson. Station Square envisioned an Arts and Crafts style community of 56 apartments, 34 townhouses and four single family homes -- far fewer than allowed under the 2006 agreement.

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"We are no longer engaged with the development of the Trimm property," said Swanson, who developed the Parkside at Libertyville townhouse community on Winchester Road in town.

Swanson, who has moved his business to Scottsdale, Arizona, said he was close to having cost-sharing issues worked out, but the seller wouldn't allow more time to finalize a development agreement with the village.

"After several attempts to resurrect the deal with the seller and our investment partners, they elected to put the property back on the market," said Swanson. Had the time been given, Station Square would be under construction, Swanson added.

One of the key aspects of his proposal was a land swap with the village in order to reconfigure and add to the commuter parking lot. In the interim, the old train station basically has been replaced, a $1.3 million project.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But the village has deferred major work on the parking lot because of pending development.

"It's in pretty bad shape," Weppler said. "How long are we going to wait on the Trimm property to do something?"

Community Development Director John Spoden said there is interest from another party in potential residential development but no proposal has been filed with the village.

"If they indicate they're interested, maybe we'll hold up a bit," Weppler said of the potential party. However, if that isn't forthcoming, he would like engineering required for a parking lot renovation to proceed.

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