New designation expected to boost preservation effort in Libertyville

Supporters of historic preservation in Libertyville say a new village designation could be a game-changer for some building renovation projects.

As a Certified Local Government in Illinois, the village now is recognized by the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office and the U.S. National Park Service for its active role in preserving heritage.

The designation means the village can participate as a partner in state and federal preservation activities, including grant programs.

Libertyville recently became the 84th certified local government in Illinois, joining other Lake County towns such as Barrington, Highland Park, Lake Forest and Waukegan.

The designation could be an incentive to make improvements for property owners in Libertyville's downtown historic district, centered on Milwaukee Avenue and mainly comprising commercial properties.

"They can apply for and get a 20% federal tax credit against the cost of the improvements," said Mike Kollman, a local architect and original member of the village's Historic Preservation Commission.

"For a lot of projects, that's the difference between being doable and not being doable."

Communities or counties can apply for the designation. Applicants must have a historic preservation ordinance, a preservation review commission and a survey program to identify historic resources.

Libertyville applied in September.

"It has been a goal for this commission to obtain this designation for quite a few years, so it's a big deal," said Chris Sandine, the village's associate planner.

Sandine said the commission can work with property owners to become eligible to receive matching grant funding for specific preservation-related projects; participate in state and federal historical preservation and incentive programs; receive direct technical assistance from the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office; and join a network of communities and experts for perspectives on local and statewide programs.

"It's a wonderful, wonderful thing for us," said preservation commission Chairman Jim Hartshorne. "Right now, we're getting familiar with it. We'll see what develops."

Sandine said he expects meetings on how to leverage the benefits. Identifying potential projects that fit the parameters and evaluating opportunities for improvements going forward also are likely considerations, he said.

The only major ongoing downtown building renovation is at the southeast corner of Milwaukee and School Street for LaVilla Loft.

Owner Jeff Lovinger has been working for about two years to convert the top two floors to luxury apartments and is considering applying for the tax credit.

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