Creating the right conditions to invite investment

Time to visit Grayslake again, and see how recent circumstances there compare to Round Lake Beach. (Of course, no two villages should strive to be identical, but there are always many aspects in common among successful municipalities since they all [should] serve the same core functions.)


Article Links:
– Lake County News Sun Article: “Last Chance Saloon sold to longtime restaurateurs
– Grayslake Patch: “Last Chance Saloon Closes

The Last Chance Saloon, on Center Street, operated for almost two decades as a centerpiece of the community until being recently purchased by new owners. New-owner transactions like this occur all the time based on needs of the owners, zoning/ordinance compliance costs, purchase by investment groups, entrepreneurs making a start… lots of reasons.


The new owners in this case are experienced and successful restaurateurs in Lake County, including owning and operating Emil’s Tavern, which is just east of the Last Chance.

Here’s what’s interesting: With eateries in Grayslake, Mundelein, and Ivanhoe, the new owners could certainly have diversified with a location in still another community… yet they chose to make a go of a restaurant basically right next to one they already have!

Why would they take such a chance doubling-up in the same town? And why the heck wouldn’t they come up and give it a try in Round Lake Beach? Here’s what they have to say:

“We were looking at going elsewhere to start another business, but we really enjoy doing business in Grayslake.

Grayslake is a great community, very vibrant, it has a good downtown, and we’re glad we’re there.”

They say a lot in just two sentences, don’t they? Can Round Lake Beach offer anything more than just vacant units in our strip lots and shopping centers to potential new business owners willing to invest in central Lake County? It’s as if we don’t realize that there’s an entire CLASS of businesses which specifically DON’T WANT to locate in “sprawl”. We offer no other alternative for them (because of poor planning decades ago)… so they find their settings elsewhere:

  • settings which don’t require acres of parking,
  • which are friendly to customers driving/walking/biking,
  • settings with lots of different business, attractions, and things to do/see in close proximity
  • which can attract spur-of-the-moment customers with delicious aromas wafting out the door, or tempting peeks of the fun and food inside through the picture windows lining the sidewalk,
  • which can support al fresco dining (something at which RLB is especially challenged),
  • which can integrate into the streetscape and events which happen there (street fair, farmers markets, etc.),
  • where… well, you get the idea!

To get places that people value, we need to focus on creating the conditions for success. We have endless examples from around the world which show us the universal desirable elements common to small towns and villages… elements which are not allowed under current Zoning! Those design features and aspects (which used to be more common knowledge) have us joyfully exploring the village squares, small shops and back-alleys of virtually any small town in Europe. [It turns out that when you’re building brick-by-brick, with manual labor, you do a LOT a planning of what to build, where, and why!]

With little build-able land remaining, Round Lake Beach MUST plan BEFORE it grows any more, with help from actual qualified urban/village planners, who can do more than design strip malls and shopping centers, and understand the many dynamics of successful communities. Our single-use zoning model is totally unsuited for village planning, and the 2009 Master Plan is based on it! To get “good density” in a welcoming, multiple-use village center we must start with Form-Based Codes!

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