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Big developments on horizon in Lake Forest, Lake Bluff

Chamber Commerce Vice President Deborah Haddad (podium) fields questions for Lake Bluff Village President Kathy O'HarLake Forest Mayor Donald Schoenheider

Chamber of Commerce Vice President Deborah Haddad (at podium) fields questions for Lake Bluff Village President Kathy O'Hara and Lake Forest Mayor Donald Schoenheider during the annual Mayor's Luncheon on July 23. | Submitted photo

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Updated: September 25, 2013 3:14AM

Big things hover on the horizon for Lake Forest and Lake Bluff, both town’s new leaders told a crowd of roughly 100 at a Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce lunch.

The group gathered at Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest to learn what the future holds during the annual Mayor’s Luncheon on July 23. This year’s presentation was a first for newly-elected Lake Forest Mayor Donald Schoenheider and Lake Bluff Village President Kathy O’Hara.

Top projects for Lake Forest, Schoenheider said, are a potential new hospital building on the Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital campus, restarting the Laurel Avenue development project put on hold during the recession and an international spotlight on the city with the BMW Golf Championship at Conway Farms in September.

Schoenheider called the plans for the new hospital facility “extraordinary” and said the public may get its first glimpse as early as September.

“It will be, by far, the largest construction project the city of Lake Forest has ever seen,” he said.

The 10-acre Laurel Avenue city-owned property also holds enormous potential for the city, Schoenheider said.

“I believe it can be a landmark property for the city,” he said.

Over the last few months, the city has “kick-started that process” to reexamine the best use of the site.

“It’s an important property that anchors the north end of downtown Lake Forest” and, fiscally, “has a big impact on the community,” he said.

The BMW Championship at Conway Farms the week of Sept. 9 will put an international focus on Lake Forest and bring an estimated 120,000 spectators to the city.

How businesses in town can benefit from the influx of potential customers is something the city is focusing on, Schoenheider told the business community members.

“We’re working on strategies to get people to Market Square and other businesses” in town for dining and shopping, he said.

In Lake Bluff, the village has already begun to position itself for the future with a branding campaign to better market itself as a residential, business and tourist hotspot, O’Hara said.

To that end, the village will focus over the next year on its business environment and housing diversity.

Top among the business projects is overhauling the Waukegan Road corridor, set up as an industrial area half a century ago.

“Fifty years later, that model does not work,” O’Hara said. Instead, the village will look at rezoning to get “a vital mix of both retail and office” that better fits today’s world.

Making the village an easier place to do business is key to its future, O’Hara said, something the village has already taken steps to address.

“We combined our zoning and planning boards to create one-stop shopping” for businesses, she said, which worked well with a potential Target store at the former Shepard Chevrolet site off Waukegan Road.

“We created a model we think will work ... for other large or small businesses,” O’Hara said.

The village will learn in December if Target has selected Lake Bluff as a site for expansion.

“We’ve done everything we can” to get Target to Lake Bluff, O’Hara said. “Now it’s up to Target.”

Like Lake Forest, Lake Bluff owns a 10-acre vacant site. The village’s property is on Route 176 just east of Route 41. Pegged years ago for a potential senior community, the site remains undeveloped.

The village is looking at “housing diversity” there and at the Stonebridge property on Green Bay Road, including “connectivity” elements necessary to new buyers, she said.

“People are moving back to more urban areas,” she said. “Pocket neighborhoods with connectivity to biking and walking paths” will be key in the future.

A new Stonebridge plan may come before the village in September, she said.

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