Local leaders discussed the status of growth and economic development in Lake Zurich and its neighboring communities at the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce‘s annual “Breakfast with the Villages” event Thursday.
In addition to Lake Zurich Mayor Suzanne Branding, mayors from Long Grove, Deer Park, Kildeer, Hawthorn Woods and Lake Barrington also attended the breakfast, held at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Kildeer.
“Things are going along better this year compared to last year; revenues and development are both trending upwards,” Branding said.
Branding named several village projects in the works:
- The Canadian National Railroad grant awarded to the village to engineer a plan for handling increased train traffic in the village.
- Up to four developers have approached the village about the re-development of downtown, though no concrete agreements have been reached yet.
- The village is partnering with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to explore bringing Lake Michigan water in to Lake Zurich.
- Reinstatement of the 20-year road reconstruction plan, where $1.5 million is being spent on village roads starting this summer with funds from the non-home rule sales tax referendum.
- Construction of Zurich Meadows, a senior residential facility that will have 95 apartment units, to be completed this fall.
- Construction of five single-family “home starts,” in addition to a two-unit townhouse.
Branding also pointed out that a number of local businesses have expanded at their existing locations: Designcraft, 850 Telser Road’ Walmart, 820 S. Rand Road; Smalley Steel Ring, 555 Oakwood Road; and Termax, 1155 Rose Road.
A major health club chain also is looking seriously at taking over the former Wickes Furniture building at 825 S. Rand Road, Branding said.
“Things are looking up and I am optimistic about the future,” Branding said.
Branding also addressed the village’s challenges.
“Our challenge is to keep services at the same level without raising taxes; Lake Zurich is a full-service community where neighboring communities are not,” Branding said.
Kildeer, Deer Park, Hawthorn Woods, Lake Barrington and Long Grove all contract out for a majority of the services they provide for their residents, which eliminates the cost of full-time employees and subsequent benefits costs.
For example, Long Grove has four full-time and two part-time employees, while Lake Zurich has 171 full-time employees on the payroll.
Branding added that “attracting business to the industrial park is also a challenge, in addition to working with the current infrastructure and needed improvements, so we are desirable for future developments.”
Branding did bring up the old Kmart property, and said that, too, has been a challenge.
“When it was first developed, it was considered a very desirable property, but now it is thought of as a B-class property,” Branding said. “With all of the big boxes, it is not a popular size and the company that owns it buys property and holds on to it.”
Branding said the village continues to work with the property owner to propose new ideas to fill the structure, in hopes that it will no longer be vacant in the near future.
“I know many of our residents want to know what is happening with that property,” Branding said.