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Barat College developer lands in foreclosure
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff

Harris Bank has filed a foreclosure lawsuit against the developer of the former Barat College in Lake Forest. Plans call for a $125 million residential project on the land.


Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

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Published: 11/10/2008 4:37 PM

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After closing in 2005, Barat College in Lake Forest was supposed to be transformed into a $125 million development featuring a variety of homes, preserved historic structures and a service attendant for residents.

Instead, the land on Lake Forest's posh east side is just another U.S. foreclosure statistic.

On Monday, there were no-trespassing signs and fencing around the property at Westleigh and Sheridan roads, where the private school opened in 1904. Harris Bank filed a foreclosure lawsuit against Robert G. Shaw and his Barat Woods LLC development team Oct. 16. Barat Woods is accused of not repaying a $16 million loan before the Dec. 31, 2007, termination date.

Attorney Jeffrey Close, who represents Harris, said the bank was forced to foreclose on the land because of court action two contractors are pursuing against Barat Woods in federal court.

"The bank has tried to work with Mr. Shaw," Close said Monday.

Shaw didn't return telephone messages seeking comment.

Barat was an independent school until it struck an alliance with DePaul University in 2001. DePaul closed Barat in 2005, citing limited enrollment, few academic programs and the need for extensive building repairs.

Shaw announced the purchase of Barat's 23 acres in January 2006. Roughly 120 townhomes, condominiums and garden houses, along with amenities such as the service attendant and exclusive custom cabinetry, were part of the plans.

To be called Barat Woods, the centerpiece of Shaw's project was an idea to convert an original college building, Old Main, into 45 condominium units selling for a minimum of $1 million. The historic structure's facade and other elements were to be preserved.

Shaw received Lake Forest city council permission to demolish Barat's Sacred Heart Chapel, which was listed on Landmarks Illinois' Chicago-area watch list from 2006 to 2007. Architect George Hellmuth designed the chapel that was built around 1925, according to the preservation group.

Catherine Czerniak, Lake Forest's community development director, said demolition work has yet to begin on the chapel. She said the interior has been dismantled, and artifacts donated to religious organizations.

Mayor S. Michael Rummel said Monday the city remains committed to redeveloping the Barat College site. He said there were other interested developers before Shaw's Barat Woods bought the land.

"Bob had a good plan for it," Rummel said. "It's too bad he got in trouble."

Lake County court documents show Harris provided the $16 million loan to Barat Woods on Jan. 24, 2006. Harris contends interest is piling up at $4,663 per day.

"Mr. Shaw and his company will continue to have some time to try to preserve their interests in the property," Close said.

Shaw heads IJI Holdings in Lake Forest. He's known in the city for other residential developments and is a Lake Forest Symphony board member.