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Will the redevelopment of the Liberty Theater in downtown Libertyville proceed?

The Libertyville village council is expected to continue discussion Tuesday on a proposal to redevelop the Liberty Theater and adjacent property on the north side of downtown.
Courtesy of the Village of Libertyville

The potential redevelopment of the shuttered Liberty Theater and adjacent property on the north side of downtown Libertyville will resurface Tuesday when a proposal comes before the village board.

Whether or not a resolution can be reached in a process that began nearly a year ago is unknown; the plans are submitted unchanged.

A plan to repurpose the Liberty Theater and add buildings to the north and south as part of the redevelopment that will include restaurants, retail and residential space in downtown Libertyville. (Paul Valade/[email protected], August 2023)
Paul Valade/[email protected]

The village board will consider reports from the historic preservation and appearance review advisory committees Tuesday evening regarding building facades and other aspects for the property at 708 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Both panels have recommended denying the current plan.

Vee Enterprise, on behalf of the owner of the 1.2-acre site, wants to redevelop the former theater for retail and a restaurant, build a one-story commercial building to the north and build a three-story apartment building to the south.

Village officials generally supported the redevelopment of the theater and adjacent property after an informal presentation in August by Vee architect Manuel Velez.

But because the former theater is located in a historic district, a certificate of suitability for exterior changes is required. That led to extensive discussions and adjustments from a modern style to something more in keeping with the Art Deco roots of the 1937 theater.

The theater has been empty for four years and its presence on a main road is a problem for the village. The lack of response from the unnamed owner is also a concern.

In April, the board further considered proposals to allow the presence of a property rights representative.

Village officials have said the community supports the redevelopment but does not want to lose the history of the original theater; there has been a push for more architectural elements consistent with the original design.

The Libertyville panel recommends against demolition of the Liberty Theater

The theater was thoroughly modified over time. At one point, Velez said the design was intended to “illustrate” the original 1937 style and reflect elements evident during the Art Deco period.

One of the remaining questions is whether the proposed structures will match the style and character of the downtown area. A common thread was the importance of the location as a gateway to the center and the need for everything that is built to fit well with the location.

The village council can accept, refuse or approve the submitted plan subject to conditions. If this is denied, owners will need to restart the review process if they wish to proceed.

The meeting begins at 8 p.m. at the Village Hall, 118 W. Cook Ave.