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LEMONT, IL-Ground has broken for a $250-million mixed-use development that will become Lemont’s new Downtown, along the historic Illinois & Michigan canal. The development, which will include retail, residential and office buildings, will be a public/private partnership between the village and Chicago-based Marquette Cos.

“Our vision is to catalyze economic development in Downtown Lemont while preserving its historic structures, heritage and character,” says Bruno Bottarelli, managing director of the company. “Lemont’s new Downtown will be a place where people live, work, shop and play. Across the country, there’s a growing demand for a walkable urban lifestyle, even in the suburbs.”

The development will be built using TIF district money and form-base code, a zoning ordinance that governs the form and appearance of buildings instead of individual, specific uses. By definition, form-based code governs the form (look, mass and scale) of structures instead of their use. The code bases zoning on keeping properties a similar style. Rather than designating real estate for specific uses, property development is governed by controlling the quality of public space such as streets, pedestrian ways, parks and plazas, established by buildings and structures fit to proper scale and form.

For Lemont, buildings must have first-floor retail space, parking must be located behind buildings, and storefronts must come up to the sidewalk without interruption by parking lots, Bottarelli says. “These guidelines help ensure the most comfortable environment for shoppers and pedestrians. Also, certain materials that reinforce the local vernacular must be incorporated into the construction, such as Lemont yellow limestone and brick, to preserve the town’s character,” he says.

The new development will also go along a “Canal Walk,” using the waterfront as a draw for shoppers. The canal was to have connected shipping between Illinois and Michigan in the 1830s, but railroads became a more popular means of transiting goods, and the costly canal project was closed. However, suburban residential development in the area boomed during the latter half of the 20th century, and subdivisions grew. The village now wants to build a local retail center.

“Lemont is losing consumer spending and tax revenue to retail centers in Oak Brook, Naperville and Orland Park. A village center in Lemont will serve as a local option for the 218,000 households within a 10-mile radius, and will help Lemont capture a larger share of the annual retail spending among area residents that currently is siphoned off to surrounding suburban communities,” Bottarelli says.

The Lemont Downtown Redevelopment District will consist of three pedestrian-friendly sections, each with a distinct identity: the Historic District, Transit Depot District and Fry’s Landing District. Marquette has begun development on Fry’s Landing District. The first of four phases in the district is called the Front Street Lofts. It has four buildings with 82 studio, one-, two- or three-bedroom loft residences, 24,000 sf of retail space and a 260-car parking structure. Homes are base-priced from the $180,000s to the upper $400,000s, with first move-ins expected fall 2007.

Future phases of the Lemont Downtown Redevelopment District will include an arts-based community center, as well as a linear public park and the Canal Walk, featuring a replica 1800s barge that will serve as a museum/restaurant venue and landscaped walking and bicycle paths. Other developers will join Marquette in building these phases. Bottarelli says the project should be completed within 10-15 years.

The development team includes Chicago-based architects Sullivan, Goulette & Wilson; planners Dover, Kohl & Partners; the Chicago office of engineers URS Corp.; and Clarkston, MI-based retail planners and urban designers J Eppink Partners Inc. Waukegan-IL-based Pickus Construction is the construction manager and general contractor for the Front Street Lofts.

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