WAUKEGAN, IL-The first step in a $1.2-billion redevelopment of this city’s Downtown and lakefront could be 12-story multifamily buildings on Sheridan Road, followed by a minor-league baseball park at Belvidere Road and Genesee Street. City council members Monday night endorsed a master plan drawn by Chicago-based architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which attempts to map out city efforts to revitalize its slumbering Downtown and reclaim a lakefront given away to now-idled industrial users who once employed 30,000.

The plan includes a substantial price tag of at least $50 million in city money, which could be generated by a sales tax, tax increment financing and the sale of city-owned land, to pay for infrastructure needed to “set the table” for at least a dozen developers who may be interested in making the master plan a reality.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill estimates it will take $245 million in city, state, county and federal money to build new roads, eliminate contamination and buy more than 250 acres of land. Most of that investment will have to be made in the early years of the master plan, with the biggest chunk–$92 million—expected to be spent turning former industrial properties along the lakefront into sites able to handle multifamily development.

The payoff will eventually be $950 million in private investment in one million sf of retail and hotel space and 4,000 multifamily units, including rental units, condominiums and townhouses. “That’s what the market will support if you make this land available,” says Michael Higbee, president of Indianapolis-based Development Concepts Inc. “Not a bad return, and quite an achievement over what’s been there for the last 20 years.”

The master plan divides 1,400 acres into five districts—Downtown, South Lakefront, Harborfront, North Harbor and North Lakefront. It also includes a schedule suggesting redevelopment begin in Downtown first, followed by up to 500 multifamily units in the South Lakefront.

Multifamily development on Sheridan Road would “send a message” to other developers that the city is serious about this effort. The RFPs could be released almost immediately, and you could start engaging development teams almost immediately,” Higbee says.

“I think we can start the Sheridan Road project and two projects on the lakefront,” says Mayor Richard H. Hyde. “We have to do something now.”

Hyde is among the city officials who admit other plans have languished in planning department files because of hesitation.

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