Shared workspace plan for downtown Libertyville building would require variations

  • A company called Brick & Mortar is proposing to remake a large vacant space across from Cook Park in downtown Libertyville to create a "coworking environment" for professionals, entrepreneurs and businesses.

      A company called Brick & Mortar is proposing to remake a large vacant space across from Cook Park in downtown Libertyville to create a "coworking environment" for professionals, entrepreneurs and businesses. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • An example of a workspace offered by Brick & Mortar at their facility in Park Ridge. The company is proposing to remake a vacant space along Milwaukee Avenue across from Cook Park in downtown Libertyville as its fifth location.

    An example of a workspace offered by Brick & Mortar at their facility in Park Ridge. The company is proposing to remake a vacant space along Milwaukee Avenue across from Cook Park in downtown Libertyville as its fifth location. Courtesy village of Libertyville

 
 
Updated 1/21/2022 7:08 PM

A proposal to remake a prominent spot in the heart of downtown Libertyville envisions a flexible shared workspace for those whose jobs have been shifted from the traditional office space.

Entrepreneurs Andrew Nast and Adam Clabaugh are seeking village approvals to open what would be the fifth suburban Brick & Mortar business at 416 N. Milwaukee Ave., across from Cook Park, the center of many community activities.

 

Brick & Mortar would provide a "coworking environment" for professionals, entrepreneurs and businesses, according to information provided to the village.

The business has offices in Park Ridge, Glen Ellyn, Deerfield and LaGrange, according to information presented to the village.

According to the proposal, companies have shifted about a third of the workforce to remote, leaving a "huge number" of white-collar professionals needing somewhere to work other than home.

Options would include daily or monthly private office space, open seating, meeting room reservations and space for seminars or events.

Downtown Libertyville was selected from among dozens of possibilities because of its walkability, demographics and vitality of its restaurants and businesses, according to the proposal.

However, the use could pose a dilemma for village officials.

"It's certainly a good business model, it's just the concern with the location," said John Spoden, community development director. "Our code would allow this on the second floor or any of the side streets."

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New office uses are not allowed in the first 35 feet of the ground floor or to encompass 25% of the footprint of a commercial building on Milwaukee Avenue in the downtown area, Spoden said.

"They'd have to meet the new requirements or ask for a variation," Spoden said. The proposal seeks variations for both those requirements.

Built as an A&P grocery store, the single-story building was occupied for 55 years by Arden's Fine Furniture and Design until 2015. The building was renovated for an Indian Motorcycle dealership but has been vacant since the business closed in May of 2020.

According to information provided by Brick & Mortar, the vast majority of retail leases in 2021 were for 5,000 square feet or less. That means the Libertyville location would have a 12% chance of being leased by a traditional retailer, according to the proposal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A shift to shared office space is occurring in suburban downtowns as a result of companies adjusting to hybrid work environments, according to Brick & Mortar.

"These professionals are not simply looking for a place to flip open their laptop -- they are looking for a workspace that they are excited to come to, as well as bring their clients," the pitch to the village reads.

But not everyone needs a dedicated office or even a desk every day, according to the proposal.

"By creating flexible membership options we allow workers to pay for what they need -- no more, no less," the proposal reads.

The application is being reviewed by village staff and tentatively is scheduled for a hearing before the advisory zoning board of appeals next month.

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