Children’s museum finds a home in Lake Villa
By Diana Kuyper Special to The News-Sun June 19, 2013 12:30PM
An artist's rendering of Busy Brains Children's Museum. | Submitted photo
Updated: July 22, 2013 5:03PM
Busy Brains Children’s Museum has found a new home in downtown Lake Villa. “It’s exactly what we are looking for as a boost to downtown Lake Villa. It will definitely be a destination and will draw families to this area,” said Mayor Frank Loffredo.
Busy Brains is a non-profit corporation founded 10 years ago by Lake County teachers Alison Price of Grayslake and Kathy Goers of Round Lake Beach. Their interactive traveling exhibits and programs in the arts, sciences and humanities have been presented throughout Lake County, but the goal has always been to find a permanent home, said Price, executive director.
“We are thrilled with the location,” she said. “We’ve been working on a permanent site in this area for eight years and this location is perfect. It is in the center of Lake County, within easy walking distance to a Metra train station and near a beautiful lakefront park.”
Earlier this month, they acquired the former Chrysler dealership at 130 Cedar Ave., which has been vacant for several years.
The 14,000-square-foot building, formerly known as Hucker’s Garage, needs a new roof and other exterior improvements before remodeling starts inside the building. “Our architect is looking at the building this week and is going over the improvements that need to be done immediately before we finalize the layout of the interior space,” said Price.
The location offers plenty of space for a variety of exhibits and programs for children from birth to age 10, said Price. “Everything we want to do will fit in this space.”
The museum’s board of directors has set a goal to raise $1.5 million for the project and open within 18 months.
“We are very excited,” said Loffredo. “This is going to be an anchor for downtown. We have worked hard to make this happen and the museum fits in perfectly with our redevelopment puzzle.”
The timing of the project comes as village officials finalize a downtown redevelopment plan, which is rebranding the area as “The Triangle,” referring to the triangle created by the business district bounded by Route 83, Cedar Avenue and Grand Avenue. “It’s always been the unofficial label, so we are adopting it to make it location-specific,” he said.
The plan requires rezoning of some of the properties within the triangle to allow for greater flexibility for future commercial, retail and residential development. The plan has been presented at public hearings and will advance later this summer to review by the planning commission and zoning board before final approval by the village board.
“This plan will give more flexibility to developers and provide a good starting point for any proposal they may present to us and gives us a better chance of bringing in projects that may benefit our downtown area,” said Loffredo. “We are trying to encourage development of townhomes and condos to generate pedestrian traffic to downtown businesses and the train station, the kind of development that attracts businesses like retail and more restaurants or specialty food establishments. On Grand Avenue, we also have space for smaller big-box stores, so we are hoping to attract a variety of new development to the area.”
Loffredo said the plan will be taken to the village committees by August and presented to the village board by early fall. “That’s a realistic goal,” he said.
The plan is available for review on the village’s website, www.lake-villa.org. More information about Busy Brains Children’s Museum can be found on www.busybrains.org.