Lake Forest condo building sparks community wide conflict

The slogan “Block the Box” is being used to campaign against the addition of a condo building in downtown Lake Forest


Elsa Dahlgren, Staff Writer

If you have driven down Westminster Avenue any time in the past few months, you more than likely have spotted a few “Block the Box” signs. 

In January 2020, two developers in Lake Forest proposed the construction of a 24,000 square foot, 3-story condo building on Westminster Ave, right outside of Lake Forest’s downtown area. 

The proposed building is the final part of a three phase multi-family planned development that started with the McKinley condo building. The construction of the McKinley building began in 2017 and is now complete. 

The final building would be placed where the current house at 361 E. Westminster Ave is located, as well as partially on 373 E. Westminster Ave, a house with long term plans of being demolished.

However, in early 2020, the plan was denied 7-0 by the Lake Forest Historic Preservation Commission

This, however, was not the end of the road for the developers’ efforts to build this condo. They revised the plan and brought it to the Preservation Commission once again. The new plan was denied again but then appealed to the City Council last spring. 

It did not take long for community members to get involved.

They began the Block the Box petition with the goal to “UPHOLD the decision of the Lake Forest Historic Preservation Committee and DENY (stop) the development of a MASSIVE CONDO in our beautiful Historic District.”

The residents’ petition currently has over 2,200 signatures. The information they provide claims the plan has been denied a total of six times by the Plan Commission, the HPC, and the City Council. 

The “Block the Box” group and their followers say the building disrupts the aesthetic of Lake Forest’s downtown area. The petition is flooded with comments defending their stance.

“I am signing to protect our quaint and historic neighborhood from intrusion,” one supporter wrote. “A condo building in this location would disrupt the family-oriented charm that makes this area unique and truly special to Lake Forest in favor of the type of development you could find in any sprawling suburb.”

Another commented, “It would be a scar on our historically beautiful town.”

The aesthetic of our community even plays a role in the day to day lives of high school students.  

“The area I live in is super historic. I haven’t lived here my whole life but everything in East Lake Forest has been there for a long time,” junior downtown resident Vivi Hirschfield said. “I like the idea of putting in more modern things… but I don’t know how much it would help the downtown area.” 

The possibly loud and lengthy construction is also a concern for nearby citizens. 

“Walking by and seeing all the construction could be disturbing,” Hirschfield said. 

On the other side, in late September the developers filed a lawsuit against the City, the City Council, the HPC, the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation, and every individual who spoke at the July meeting, for breach of contract.

The developers said they had “reasonable expectation that following the directions of city staff, the City Council, the Plan Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission, or HPC, would result in the development coming to fruition.” 

No news of a settlement has been announced.