Old Main's Demolition Remains in the Future

Woodlands starts early process of forming master plan for campus. Topic highlights Second Ward meeting.

Expect the future of the Barat property to return once again to the forefront of issues confronting the .

There has been relatively little public discussion since the City Council approved an ordinance in February to into their original 40 acres after a 50-year separation.

That likely will change, but exactly when is hard to pinpoint.

At Tuesday’s Second Ward meeting at , Lake Forest Community Development Director Cathy Czerniak indicated has sought a consultant to assist in its master plan.

“I think this first level of master planning will be very high-level,” she said. “It will speak of their reuse of the (former Barat College) library, lay out some athletic fields, identify where open space will be preserved and deal with some road-access issues.”

As part of that master plan, the 110,000-square-foot Old Main will be demolished. Second Ward Alderman George Pandaleon noted Tuesday night that the building is in bad shape.

“I personally have toured Old Main,” he said. “It’s very, very far gone.”

Exactly when Old Main will fall is dependent on the relocation of wireless antennas mounted atop the 1904 building.

“There are leases that go along with them,” Czerniak said. “The building simply can’t be dropped.”

The special use permit requires that any wireless replacement plans provide coverage for the city’s southeastern section and the consideration of alternative technologies.

Any replacements also must meet city codes and be designed with neighborhood impact in mind. Any replacement plans would need Plan Commission review and City Council approval.

Second Ward Alderman David Moore, who was absent from Tuesday’s meeting, chairs the city’s Wireless Communications Task Force, which works with many of the wireless carriers with antennas in the city. According to Czerniak, the task force has met once with the representatives of the donor and Woodlands Academy, and will meet with them again and “try to move that piece of the project forward.”

The task force is slated to deliver a preliminary report of the antennas issue to the City Council in early July.

“So I can’t tell you if Old Main will come down in six months, eight months or a year,” Czerniak said. “It’s really tied up with that piece (antennas) of it now.”

Some of the other topics discussed at the meeting included:

Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital master plan

The City Council will conduct a first reading of the hospital’s master plan Monday night after it received . The council could vote on the master plan at its July 2 meeting.

Once the council approves the master plan, the design process will take from 18 to 24 months. The construction of the 450,000-square-foot hospital and medical office space is expected to be completed by 2017.

Property at Laurel and Western Avenues

The site of the city’s former Public Works building will remain vacant for the time being. The city has had preliminary discussions of putting a tax increment financing district on the property to make it more attractive to buyers.

“It’s a longshot to have someone come in and just buy it,” Pandaleon said.

The site has been cleaned up and is still used to store salt and dump excess snow during the winter.

Five years ago, a concept plan was developed for the site calling for single-family and multifamily residences, ranging from detached and attached housing, condos, apartments and row houses.

“We have to revisit that plan,” City Manager Bob Kiely said. “There was a strong argument to do condos then, but we wouldn’t do it right now.”

Kiely indicated the property’s future will be on the council agenda still this year, but in the meantime maintaining the site is not affecting city finances negatively.

“We’re still intent on selling it, but not at a fire sale and only when it’s reasonable to do so,” he said. “We did finance that property and we’re paying a low interest rate on it. For us to hold onto the property is not expensive.”

Cellphone ban

to prohibit the use of hand-held devices while driving starting Sept. 1, there has been speculation about how it will be enforced.

Kiely said the spirit of the ordinance was based upon educating the public about not using a hand-held cellphone while driving. He added once the ban becomes effective, will not be purposely looking for drivers using a hand-held cell phone.

“If they catch you for some other violation, in the course of that, they may observe you talking on your phone,” he said. “It will be done in conjunction with that.”

Kiely said the city plans to post signs, but didn’t indicate how many or where they would be posted.

Pandaleon was absent the night of the ordinance vote, but said he probably would have voted for it. He voted against an ordinance the first time it was discussed because of wanting to wait for the state to create a statewide ban.

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