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Libertyville's School Street project revived
By Mick Zawislak | Daily Herald Staff

A new developer has emerged with plans to convert the former Central School east of downtown Libertyville into lofts.


Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

Utilities and roads have been in place, but a foreclosure has stalled construction along School Street east of downtown Libertyville. A new developer has plans to convert the school and build single-family homes.


Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

Artist's rendering of one of the home designs being proposed for a revised School Street development in Libertyville.


COURTESY StreetScape development

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Published: 3/8/2010 4:54 PM

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A long-idled plan to create an old-fashioned neighborhood near downtown Libertyville has been rekindled.

Despite a weak market for new homes, developer John McLinden and partners in StreetScape Development LLC want to complete what the Hummel Group started on School Street.

A foreclosure stalled the original project in June 2008 after one building of luxury brownstones was erected and the first residents moved in. But one builder's pain could be another's opportunity.

"Why now? There's a set of circumstances here that have aligned," said McLinden, a Libertyville resident with 28 years experience in development, including lofts in several trendy North side Chicago neighborhoods.

StreetScape has a contract to purchase the property on School Street, which includes the former Central School building just east of downtown, contingent on the group securing changes in the original development agreement with the village.

Because the land is being purchased at a discount, builders can offer attractive prices for the homes, filling a void in the expensive Libertyville market, according to McLinden.

The pedestrian-friendly design within walking distance of downtown and other community attractions also is in line with a cultural shift in which buyers want to be more connected with their community, he added.

"There are definitely signs the (housing) recovery is starting," he said. "This is the perfect time."

The biggest change being proposed by StreetScape is to build 26 detached single-family homes instead of an equal number of townhouses. Hummel's plan offered connected row houses in the $850,000 range. In the revised plan, the houses would start at about $495,000.

StreetScape is proposing single-family homes based on the fundamentals of "New Urbanism," which promotes walking, offers smaller homes that are close together in a variety of designs and is close to public transit.

The homes are being designed in a bungalow style with an arts and crafts influence. Each will have a different facade, a front porch and garages accessed by an alley, "so it will be like the old neighborhoods used to be," according to M.J. Seiler, a Libertyville Realtor who is marketing the project.

"We're calling it a front porch revival neighborhood," he said.

The models are named after figures who were important in Libertyville history, such as Clara F. Colby, the first woman to legally vote in the state of Illinois.

Another key aspect of the project is the renovation of the 1930s-era former Central School. StreetScape is proposing 15 lofts, up from the 12 originally approved.

Eight of those would be work force housing at an "attainable" starting price not to exceed $230,000.

However, because of the difficulty financing condos, developers are suggesting the lofts be offered as rental units for several years before being converted.

Pending approvals, construction would begin in July.