Lakewood Angles for High Scale Restaurant Where Village Hall Sits

When I read Lakewood Village President’s State of the Village speech I found a reference to using the current Village Hall site for a restaurant.

So I filed a Freedom of Information request for documents relating to the topic.

I picked them up yesterday.

Included was $14,750 worth of restaurant drawings from Zion’s Master’s Restaurant Group. (The company asked for a $2,500 a month retainer.)

Yesterday, a coincidence I imagine, the Village issued the following press release:

Initial Renderings of Restaurant

The Village of Lakewood has been exploring the feasibility of creating a unique dining experience at the current Village Hall site located on Crystal Lake.

Restaurant rendering provided by Lakewood.

Restaurant rendering provided by Lakewood.  Above the drawing is written, “Old World Italian with a Modern Twist.”

This initiative was identified some time ago during a series of charrettes or planning/visioning sessions with our residents. A restaurant in this prime location would not only fill a need within the community, it offers an opportunity to showcase the spirit and essence of the Lakewood community.

Lakewood Restaurant Aerial View Parking

Six lots on the south side of Lake Avenue are contemplated to become parking lots. In addition, West Beach parking would be used.  Ironically, parking for West Beach used to be where house are now built on Lake Avenue.  An 11-17-14 email to Administrator Catherine Peterson asks her to “outline what you confidentially have locked up for alternative Valet service.”

While the process is still ongoing, the Village has received a number of inquiries regarding the status of the restaurant project.

Understandably, there has been significant interest in such an endeavor, as it would serve as a premier destination within the County.

As a result of this interest, the Village has chosen to share the initial renderings of a restaurant concept for this location.

As the owner of the development site, the Village engaged Barker/Nestor Architecture & Design to prepare these renderings which will continue to be refined over the coming months to more closely meet the needs of the project.

While the final product may look different, the Village is excited to share the vision of the possibilities for transforming this property.

The Village has been working with a talented restaurant management group, which would ultimately be responsible for construction oversight and the management of the daily restaurant operations.

They are currently seeking investors to bring the project to fruition. Any questions or inquiries regarding this project can be directed to Village Manager Catherine Peterson at (815) 459-3025.

= = = = =

Three story version of the restaurant.

Three story version of the restaurant seen from Lake Avenue.

From looking at what was provided pursuant to my FOIA request, the building will have at least two floors and possible three. In the two story version, a banquet room would overlook the lake.

The seating of various permutations ranges from 52 to 300 seats with 16-118 outside and 36 to 182 inside.

Village officials seems to have some urgency to get the project moving because of pending changes in the Stormwater Management Ordinance.

Initial interest developed because of a social gathering in which a village official met the son of an internationally famous chef. His name has been blacked out in all documents and, apparently, on the signs on the rendering seen above.  The chef seems to dropped out of the picture.

There has been more activity on the restaurant since January than on the SportsPlex. according to the documents I have reviewed.

The EB-5 district part of Lakewood is in green on this map.

The EB-5 district part of Lakewood is in green on this map.

Mentioned in a February 10, 2014, email is EB-5 funding. That’s the program some call “buy a visa” in which the investment of $500,000 can result in going to the head of the immigration line.

Fifty full-time jobs are mentioned. Hong Kong, China is mentioned, along with the figure $4 million. There is also talk of an European investor and a local investor.

I can’t figure out the relevance to a restaurant located where the Village Hall is, because that is not in the EB-5 district. That district covers just the Dorr Township part of Lakewood.

In April of last year, one email from someone in touch with “a seasoned investor” muses he “wants to make sure there is sufficient demand for the restaurant in the area and understand the incentives the Village is providing (i.e, term of the lease, etc.).”

Here’s a thought to enhance value of the village hall property:

Why not reserve the top floor of the new building for condos or apartments?

They would have an unparalleled view of Crystal Lake and undoubtedly could be sold or rented.

While we don’t know whether there will be enough demand for a high end restaurant to make it pay without a renowned chef’s name attached to it, we do know that people like to look at water from where they live.


Lakewood Angles for High Scale Restaurant Where Village Hall Sits — 25 Comments

  1. Why can’t the Lakewood Village Board just stick to what they are elected to do, “Govern.”

    They seem hell bent on also running businesses that should be left to the private sector.

    Who on the board has the life long dream of becoming a restaurateur?

    Why on earth would the Village of Lakewood want to enter a business that has a HUGE “FAILURE” rate?

    Who on the board wants to run a ‘sport arena?”

    Why not call in Mark Cuban (as unrealistic as building the complex in the first place.) and have him build you a sports arena and the village just sell him the land with improvements and do what governments do, “Collect the taxes!”

    Find out how many “Sports Complexes” fail.

    So the Village would have a ‘failed’ restaurant on its hands, a ‘failed’ sports complex on its hands, and ZERO tax revenues coming in.

    How about that golf course, how is that been working out for you Madame Village President?

    If you want a restaurant, there is a cheap one for sale that used to be “Turnberry Country Club.”

    Let me draw you a picture….

    It’s a freezing cold winters night, ( yea, we have those for 120 days of the year don’t forget.)

    How many folks will want to sit ‘frozen lake front’ for dinner.

    And, let’s not forget, it’s not as if the location of the restaurant is one that a family driving through town on HWY 14 is going to just happen by and say, “Hey that looks like a nice place, let’s stop in there and see what they have to offer.”

    The next step is called “Bankruptcy.”

    My lord, how much money has Smith and the Trustees already spent on “studies” to see if their dreams can be made a reality?

    With not a single thing to show for it all.

    If the village voters don’t get together and form some kind of an awareness group, these tricksters you have running the joint with YOUR MONEY, will have you so deep in debt, your grandchildren will be paying off Smith’s wet dreams with their inheritance.

  2. Then the article ends with this little tidbit;

    “They are currently seeking investors to bring the project to fruition. Any questions or inquiries regarding this project can be directed to Village Manager Catherine Peterson at (815) 459-3025”

    Let me give you a little clue Ms. Peterson. ANY project worth its salt, and built up (sales job) as you are doing to promote the Counties greatest project ever, WOULD NOT HAVE TO GO LOOKING FOR INVESTORS!

    Investors would be pounding on your door to purchase the land and build this great project out themselves.

    What do they need you for?

    I’ve read lots of B.S. in my time, but this is the biggest crock of sh&t I’ve ever seen.

    This is a rotten idea, and may I add as an old Crystal Lake’r?

    The West End of Crystal Lake has ALWAYS been the ‘ugliest’ area of the entire Lakewood model.

    Why do you think all the activities are on the other side of the lake front?

    The Field House, the little league fields, the basketball courts, and on and on.

    Figure out what you’re going to do with Turnberry County Club why don’t you.

    It is just sitting there rotting away.

    Why do you think that is, and what makes you think any other restaurant in that entire area can succeed.

    Put in a Duncan Donuts shop at the old West Beach facility, I’d bet that would make a fortune, more so than any restaurant!

  3. Wow! What a great idea this would have been!

    Forty to fifty years ago, that is.

  4. Hahahahaha this is what happens when you have idle minds dreaming up these dumba$$ ideas and supposedly believing in them.

    Stick to what you were elected to do.

    If I was a resident I would be demanding a refund for the money already wasted on this pipe dream.

    Lakewood becoming the new model for what not to do.

    Clean up your old messes if you need something to do

  5. Allen, respectfully, the west end of Crystal Lake is NOT prime real-estate by any stretch of the imagination.

    Why do you think the only business that has ever opened, then closed, then opened, then closed and has been an eye sore on so many occasions?

    At one time the store was called, “Engs.”

    I believe it had been violently robbed at one time.

    The west end of Crystal Lake is ‘scum!’

    Always has been, always will be.

    Like I stated above, if this location were as great as the village powers that be dream it to be, then why have ZERO investors been knocking on Erin Smith’s door to be ‘first in line’ to build the ‘county’s “Premier Destination?”

    Sell off the land if you can find any buyers Ms. Smith….. let them suck up the losses!

    Stop trying to be a “Government Business Owner.”

    Create opportunity via incentives and let the private sector due what it does best, create opportunity and build wealth that pays taxes.

  6. The press release raises certain obvious questions, such as where do they plan to put Village Hall and how much will a new Village Hall cost?

    If they sell this property for less than the cost of a new Village Hall, it is OUR taxes that will be wasted.

  7. So, Allen Skillicorn, are you saying you support what Lakewood is doing in deciding what kind of business should go on that site and seeking “investors”?

    I’m unclear from you comment exactly where you stand on this issue.

  8. Why can’t the old Turnberry CC be turned into a city hall?

    It’s already there.

    Has plenty of room for village hall meetings which nobody attends anyway….

    has restaurant facilities and a golf course.

    Keep it all in one location.

    This concept would make use of a piece of property already in place, that can be purchased at a great discount, would take little to convert, and can be ran as a “Village” or “Public” recreation area where those that live in Lakewood would pay an annual fee that would be reasonable, and the kids would have a place to go swimming, and the men and women could play golf at a very reasonable rate per round.

    The “Village” could rent out the restaurant portion for special events, weddings, and even make a portion of it a ‘Sports Bar.’

    The possibilities are endless and it’s ready to go right now.

    Then, sell off the Red Tail Golf Course land for higher end “Senior Housing” for ages 55 and up.

    This would pay for the Turnberry CC renovations and conversions.

  9. I used to walk to that general store at Edgewater and Lake as a kid.

    Not saying Lakewood should spend money on it, but it’s silly to have village hall sitting on lakefront property.

    I don’t think private investors will use that lot as a restaurant, but it’s still a valuable lot that could be sold to either lower long term taxes or give back to the residents.

    A village the size of Lakewood only needs a modest village hall for municipal matters and meeting space.

    Are you telling me you guys support keeping a high value lot off the tax roles, effectively raising your own taxes?

  10. Hey Numb, I agree that government has no business running a restaurant….

    but who are you?

    Calling my neighbors “Scum”….and me too I suppose….

    I am surprised the other commenters are okay with that….

    That is all I have to say, Numb…

    leave the rest to your imagination….

  11. There are some who want to be some kind of “aristocracy” and have the taxpayers pay for it.

    Evidently this “plantation” mindset is alive and well.

    Personally, I find it disgusting.

  12. And the good folks in Lakewood wonder why their real estate taxes are so high….


    dreamers spending other people’s money!

    Perhaps the SportsPlex people can give away gift certificates for the restaurant On the Bay!

  13. Some guy wrote a letter to the editor of the NW Herald several years that went something like this:

    If Republicans are against taxes and McHenry County elects all Republicans, then why do my taxes keep going up?

    Well this why.

    Give a Republican taxpayer money to spend and he or she turns into a Democrat.

    Two sides of the same coin.

  14. TO Jeff Thorsen….. I stated the following;

    “The west end of Crystal Lake is ‘scum!’

    You said that I said, “Calling my neighbors “Scum”….and me too I suppose….”

    I do not see the sentences as being one in the same? Are you drinking today Jeff? Because I don’t see any resemblance to what I wrote vs. what you are accusing me of writing.

    It is obvious I MUST school you, but then again Mr. Thorsen, you are on the board of the City Crystal Lake, a once treasured town now looking like the ‘close your eyes and get past this rt 14 mess of a place” ( oh but you did spend THOUSANDS of tax payer dollars on those nice little ‘pillars’ that were part of your beautification project.) Bravo to you Jeffrey on that one!!

    Johnsburg and Lake in the Hills, two places that were nothing but little hamlets, now PUT CRYSTAL LAKE TO SHAME! Why is it Mr. Thorsen that Crystal Lake can’t even keep a big box store open? The land next to the Taste Freeze where the original CL McDonalds sat, still just sits there next to the ‘brothel’ and “Crack House Hotel.”

    Oh yea, and the ingenious idea of placing the county dog kennel in plain view in what could have been a nice little strip mall, that too was just a great addition to the allure that is “Crystal Lake.” So I thank you for that as well.

    You make me sick Mr. Thorsen….. you have contributed to the ruination of a great city that had the potential to be something very special.

    More to my point since again, I have to school you.

    I did not make a single statement about the PEOPLE who live on the west end of Crystal Lake.

    The LAKE ITSELF was ALWAYS the place that all the ‘pond scum’ would show up on top of the water. It smelled, you could not water ski through it, and the beach was (is) pathetic! Why do you think all the beach goer’s hang out at the East end of the lake Mr. Thorsen?

    Why are all the functions held at the East end such as the Card Board Regatta…why don’t you try to get that even moved down to the ‘scum’ end of the lake and see how far that will get you?

    So I ask you this Mr. Thorsen. WHY is it that ALL the park districts recreational areas are on the east end of the lake and not the West end?

    I want YOU to answer to this question, right now!

    Why is it that all the housing on the West end are more like summer cottages and the homes on the East end like where Dr. Hillstrom’s home was, and Zukowski’s home was, are more like first class homes.

    So I will ask you one more time Mr. Thorsen. WHY is it that the WEST END of Crystal Lake has NEVER developed into ANYTHING?

    Your neighbors may not be ‘scum’ Mr. Thorsen, but based on the way you and your buddy Shepley have run the city of Crystal Lake into the ground, perhaps it is fair to say that you sir, are ‘scum!’

    And while your at it Mr. Thorsen, why don’t you stop making a jack ass out of yourself and stop drinking so much when you attend political functions? I’ve watched you in action, and yes, you do drink A LOT!

    Time for the people of Lakewood to start cleaning out the ‘scum.’

    How is that Mr. Thorsen?

    See, I don’t have to leave anything to my imagination…. all I have to do is drive down HWY 14 and I can see what the likes of you have done to Crystal Lake.

    I stand on everything I printed in my first postings beneath this story. I believe my ideas are solid and based on FACTS, not your ‘bleeding heart’ fantasies.

  15. Does anyone but I find it amusing that NumbNuts thinks Thorsen is an ally of Shepley?

  16. While super funny as a concept I think Mr Nuts was equating the faulty policy rather than a personal affection. I’ll read it differently if I ever see Shepley and Thorsen holding hands and skipping…

    I might pay to see that…

  17. Gee, Numb…I haven’t seen you at your local board meetings where decisions like these are discussed and made.

    By your demeanor alone, I am sure you would have made yourself known through out the county had you ever attended them.

    That would be the place where your thoughts and frustrations can truly make a difference.

    Not here.

    I am glad you don’t think my neighbors are scum or that you are better than any of them or anything like that…right?

  18. Gentlemen, you all seem united in the idea that pushing a restaurant on this site is not proper village business.

    I therefore respectfully suggest that we all return to the key issues here and instead of fighting each other.

    There are bigger fish to fry.

    In my mind, there are two issues here, and neither is whether the site is or is NOT good for a restaurant.

    The first issue is why the Village Board is pushing a particular type of venture for this property.

    IF they want to sell the property, then put it up for sale and see what offers they get.

    Do NOT push a particular type of business.

    I thought this type of Soviet Central Committee planning went out with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    The second issue, and the more important, not least of which because of its complete absence from the press release, is the NEW VILLAGE HALL.

    Where will the new Village hall be and how much will it cost?

    If the Village Board sells the property for MORE than a new Village hall costs (and with no subsidies to the new owner), I’m fine with the transaction.

  19. Great comments and points.

    I try to ignore local politics but the pot holes and gravel on the gate streets have pissed me off for the third summer in row I decided to start googling and find out what’s going on…wow.

    How about the village fixed our roads, show some police presence on Lake Ave to slow down drivers and give our kids a crosswalk on Lake ace so they can safety get to their bus stop and beach.

    Instead they are wasting our money on these business ventures behind our backs.

    I’m going to start going to meetings.

    This is crazy.

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