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Five years later, old fairgrounds in Grayslake still vacant

The entrance   former Lake County Fairgrounds site Route 45 Grayslake is fenced off. | Thomas Delany Jr.~ Sun-Times

The entrance to the former Lake County Fairgrounds site on Route 45 in Grayslake is fenced off. | Thomas Delany Jr.~ Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 14, 2012 1:35AM

GRAYSLAKE — Five years after the Lake County Fair Association moved two miles south, the former fairgrounds at routes 45 and 120 remains a mostly vacant site with sporadic activity, including a recent visit from a Florida-based circus.

Despite a relatively new sign on Route 120 with the words “coming soon — new retail development,” Grayslake Assistant Village Manager Derek Soderholm said that all is quiet when it comes to re-birth for the 112-acre property.

“There’s nothing new cooking,” Soderholm said. “It’s still owned by the same property owner, but nothing’s changed. We have no plans presented, and no conversations with them.”

The sign promoting “The Fairgrounds at Grayslake” development directs inquires to Developers Diversified Realty, a Beachwood, Ohio, company. While attempts to contact DDR officials for more information on the Grayslake property were not successful, the company’s Web site states that it owns and manages approximately 450 retail properties in 40 states, along with Puerto Rico and Brazil.

According to the site, the company’s “prime portfolio primarily features open-air, value-oriented shopping centers in high barrier-to-entry markets with stable populations and high growth potential.”

One previous attempt by the company to redevelop the site did not come to fruition.

In June 2007, one month before the Lake County Fair’s final appearance on the property, DDR and Deerfield-based SKW Capital Management submitted an application with the village for a mixed retail development.

General concepts called for an $80 million, “high-quality” retail center of about 800,000 square feet with two or three large anchor stores, retail shops, restaurants and outlots.

A point of comparison at an appearance before the village’s plan commission was the Deer Park Town Center at Long Grove Road and Route 12 in Deer Park, a DDR project with 70 outlets that currently include Banana Republic, Crate & Barrel, The Gap, Pottery Barn and a 16-screen Century Theatres multiplex.

Other DDR projects in the Chicago area include The Shops at Fox River in McHenry, a 37-acre development along Route 31 that includes Dick’s Sporting Goods, Old Navy and PetSmart. Farther south, the company developed Woodfield Village Green in Schaumburg and Village Crossing on Touhy Avenue in Skokie.

Though the company’s original Grayslake proposal was given a unanimous recommendation by the plan commission, financing for the project reportedly never came together.

The blue roof of the county fair’s admissions building can still be seen by passing traffic, and the property’s primary use appears to be as a training site for area canine units.

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