The old adage about “build it and they will come” certainly seems to apply to Grayslake these days. The village, as part of a multi-year downtown improvement plans, has been making streetscape improvements and adding parking to increase the community’s appeal to businesses of all kinds. In addition, downtown Grayslake is increasingly becoming a destination for those looking for fine dining and shopping in a picturesque community, according to Brett Kryska, assistant village manager.
For instance, the Light the Lamp microbrewery, which came to the village in 2013, has moved to a new downtown Grayslake location – 2 S. Lake Street – in order to produce more beer and also offer food. They revitalized the long-vacant Cupola Building, which was built in the early 1900s, and moved their operations there in June 2018.
Another business for beer aficionados – Beer Bazaar – which sells craft beers from around the world and offers tasting events – is considering moving from their current location in Hainesville to a former doctor’s office at 107 Center St. in Grayslake. They are currently working on a new façade design and are also planning to renovate the building’s interior and make further improvements to the structure near the alley in the rear, Kryska noted.
“That building has not been improved for decades and it has been empty for awhile,” he said.
Elsewhere in Grayslake, the village is using a $1.4 million federal grant to resurface Lake Street from Center Street to Route 83. They will also add curbs and gutters along the stretch of Lake Street from Washington Street to Route 83.
Private improvements also abound. A private investor has spent $6 million to renovate and redevelop the Center Street shopping center, which once housed the Piggly Wiggly grocery store and later the Farmer’s Market grocery. Butera is now the anchor tenant and the entire center has a new façade and architectural look that is more in line with village architectural standards.
On the southwest corner of Washington Street and Atkinson Road, the Northern Lakes Oral Surgery and Dental Implant Center is under construction and is expected to open in late 2018, and the construction of a Circle K convenience store, gas station and car wash has been approved for the corner of Route 83 and Lake Street.
The village is also working on design plans with the Dollar Tree discount chain for the construction of a new store next to the Chase Bank and Advanced Auto Parts store at the intersection of Route 120 and Atkinson Road.
Also at that intersection, Grayslake’s only new car dealership – originally known as Rockenbach Chevrolet, then Rock Chevrolet – has been acquired once again and is now known as Flagg Chevrolet.
“We expect Flagg Chevrolet to make a robust contribution to our local economy, similar to the contribution made when it was the Rockenbach dealership,” Kryska said.
Grayslake’s industrial sector is also growing. Okabe Company Inc., a Japanese manufacturer of metal fasteners for automotive and marine applications, is completing the construction of its 130,000-square-foot North American headquarters on 21 acres at the northwest corner of the intersection of Peterson and Midlothian Roads. Many of their 50 to 60 full-time employees have already relocated from Vernon Hills and other locations in the region. Kryska said the potential for a large expansion of the new site exists in the future.
Residential development is underway across Grayslake, too, attracting more residents who will patronize businesses, pay taxes and enjoy village services.
Cal-Atlantic Homes is nearing completion of its Lake Street Square 84-townhouse community and Icon Development is building 32 semi-custom homes of between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet at the Stoney Ridge subdivision, along Rollins Road, just west of Carillon North.
Those new residents will enjoy a number of recently installed improvements to Grayslake’s downtown. For instance, the village is in the midst of the final phase of its downtown improvements project. It is currently adding improvements to the alleyway south of Center Street to allow better pedestrian access to Center Street businesses and has also been expanding downtown parking. Last year they added 23 new spaces to the Whitney Street parking lot and constructed a new 47-space parking lot at the northwest corner of Hawley and Slusser Streets.
“As shopper and diner traffic in the downtown area increases, businesses are looking for more parking,” Kryska said. “So the village is actively looking for places to expand convenient parking.”
The village is also seeking to expand the downtown area’s green space, and has acquired the old 10-acre gelatin factory site along the railroad tracks northeast of the downtown (which has been vacant for about 30 years). The village has demolished the old factory buildings and performed an environmental clean-up of the site. The historic smokestack will be preserved.
Then the site will be improved with a 25-foot-high cardio hill, bike paths, a pavilion with benches, a meandering road providing a connection between the downtown and Central Park, parking and public restrooms.
In addition, the expanded Millennium Court Veteran’s Memorial has been built at the southeast corner of Seymour and Center Streets on the site of a former parking lot. The expanded park features grass and hard-scaping, trestles, benches, a gated archway and monument plaques erected to honor the history of Grayslake and also its veterans of war.
The village board has also approved a long-range plan for the future which includes adding green spaces, sidewalk streetscaping and alley improvements between Pine Street (on the north), Slusser Street (on the west), north alley (on the south) and the Gelatin property/businesses along the railroad tracks and north of Center Street (on the east) in the northern portion of the downtown.