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WAUKEGAN, IL-The Waukegan City Council has approved three separate TIFs for the area surrounding the dying 1 million-sf Lakehurst shopping mall. Developer Martin Tuohy has a big vision for revitalizing the area with an $800-million plan called University Station.

“A lot of developers are waiting to see what happens,” says Don Wakely, director of government services for Waukegan, which is north of Chicago near the Wisconsin border. “He’s got the option, let’s see if he can implement his plan.”

Tuohy is just now working on putting together a development agreement with Waukegan, which he expects to be in place next month. The TIF green light was critical to moving ahead with certain key aspects of acquiring to necessary funding to move forward with University Station plans, says Tuohy. Neither the city nor Tuohy would speculate on the potential value of the TIFs, which they said would become clearer once the final development agreement is in place.

Lakehurst shopping mall has been vastly under used for many years following the loss of two key anchors, Montgomery Wards and Goldblatts department stores. The University Station plan, while it seeks to preserve the retail, also seeks to redevelop much of the huge parking areas in the mall into a mix of higher education campuses, office and residential.

“We are trying to create a community here,” says Tuohy, who is principal at his own firm Martin Tuohy & Associates. He wants to retain Carson Pirie Scott as an anchor in the retail part of the plan, which will be cut to 500,000-sf. He has already signed Illinois Institute of Technology and National Louis University to the 300,000-sf higher education part of the development and hopes to round this out with 1,500 residential units, both condo and rental. Tuohy said he wants to attract a public higher education entity to the development, while about 300,000-sf of University Station is slated to be office development.

The first phase of project, which would involve a redevelopment of the existing indoor mall structure, would take three years and be focused on implementing the retail and higher education portions of the plan. The residential and office portion of the plan comes later and would be finished seven years from now, according to the plan.

Lakehurst, which is about 80% vacant, has seen its value fall by about half in five years to almost $12 million, according to a report by consultants Arthur Andersen. The report says a redeveloped Lakehurst could be worth as much as $225 million.

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