Author: Adrienne Fawcett, Daily North Shore
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Submitted by the City of Lake Forest
Lake Forest’s City Council on Sept. 2 approved a recommendation to select Focus Development to develop the City’s former Municipal Services site.
The selection of a developer for this site concludes a process that initially started in 2007, was then put on hold until the economy stabilized, and was re-initiated in December, 2013 with the issuance of a Request for Developer Qualifications.
Mayor Schoenheider charged the PPL, chaired by 3rd Ward Alderman Jack Reisenberg, with vetting development teams through a comprehensive, multi-phased process. Eleven development teams vied for the project with the proposal from Focus Development receiving a unanimous endorsement from the PPL at the conclusion of the months-long selection process. The site map and a tentative timeline are included below.
The 10-acre site proposed for redevelopment was the site of the City’s Municipal Services Facility for decades until the site was vacated in 2009. The Development Parameters for the site, developed through a community engagement process in 2007 and 2008, envisioned the site for primarily residential use with a mix of housing types, at a variety of price points, to provide more housing opportunities within walking distance of the City’s Central Business District. Alderman Reisenberg commented that “Focus Development presented concepts that impressed the PPL. The concepts emphasized open space, walkability, strong architectural design and most importantly, development concepts that are consistent with the quality and character of the surrounding neighborhoods and the larger community.”
Mayor Schoenheider commented “Redevelopment of this property, in a manner that will create a new landmark for the City and serve the community well over the long term, was one of my priorities when I took office. The PPL has recommended a strong proposal and a strong team in Focus Development. I am excited to see this strategic development move forward. It is important for our community.”
Focus Development was founded in 1993 by Tim Anderson and is recognized for its award winning design/development work in Lake Forest, Winnetka, Evanston, Oak Park, and Wheaton. The firm’s strategy is to design and build attractive, high-quality residences that complement existing neighborhoods and bring value to the surrounding community. Focus Development brings a strong team to this project with extensive experience, unique expertise and familiarity with Lake Forest. To date, the team includes Booth Hansen, Larry Booth, Principal; Mariani Landscape, Fred Wacker, President; and the The Lakota Group, Scott Freres, President.
With Council acceptance of the PPL’s recommendation, work will get underway on several fronts. City representatives will meet with Focus Development principals to negotiate a Purchase and Sale Agreement. This Agreement will be brought back to the City Council in the coming months for consideration. The Focus Development team will move into the design development phase preparing detailed site plans, building designs, and landscape concepts for review through a public process before the City’s Boards and Commissions.
In addition, the PPL is recommending that a public process be initiated to allow consideration of the establishment of a Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) to support clean-up of the property, demolition of the buildings, infrastructure and other TIF eligible expenses. This financial tool was used very successfully to enhance the Waukegan Road business area. Public hearings on the various aspects of this project are expected to begin this fall with site preparation work possibly as early as the second quarter of 2015.
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