Famed for the beauty of its lake views and historic architecture, as well as its large homes, the City of Lake Forest just increased its value with an entirely different asset: affordable, workforce housing. On Monday March 16, the Lake Forest City Council approved the donation of a prime site of vacant land to the nonprofit Lake County Residential Development Corporation. Located across the street from its Metra stop and around the corner from the town’s charming, Settler's Square shopping district, the site is now designated for the development of 17 new apartments. This proposal clearly promotes the kind of “sustainable communities” about which . U.S Housing and Transportation Secretaries Shaun Donovan and Ray LaHood recently vowed to support through interagency efforts as well as the local goals of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Housing Endorsement Criteria and the "live near work" priorities of State's annual Comprehensive Housing Plan.
"While we heard from residents both in favor of and in opposition,” acknowledges Mayor Mike Rummel, "I am certain that the final development will be a source of pride for the community -- well managed, well designed, and home to seniors, key workers and other valued households." This latest approval continues the implementation of Lake Forest's inclusionary housing strategy, passed in 2005, which gives a local preference to area workers and residents for newly created homes. As part of the Charter One Workforce Housing Initiative, in 2007, Mayor Rummel and four other North Shore mayors joined to reach out to area employers, with MPC and Charter One Bank, to engage the business community as partners in their common pursuit for workforce housing solutions.
Four of the employers who attended the 2007 forum were among the vocal supporters at the March 16 Lake Forest Council meeting. Representatives of Lake Forest Hospital and Lake Forest College attended in person, while Baxter and Walgreens circulated letters of support. "Our corporate headquarters houses over 1,500 employees, and we have another 3,500 or so employees in four additional locations in the general area," pointed out Baxter HR Director Barbara Morris in her written testimony "Our search for employees often takes us to locations in southern Wisconsin ... Long commute time has an impact on the workplace. .... In today's unstable economy, we are ever more concerned about the productivity of our employees and we are very focused on managing issues related to absenteeism, turn-over, recruitment/retraining costs ..."
Walgreens' Local Government Relations Manager Donovan Pepper shared similar sentiments in his written testimony. "We applaud the leadership of the City of Lake Forest and other area towns that are thinking strategically about the value of providing a range of housing options near jobs and transit, and for identifying qualified developers to build and manage these properties. ... We are so grateful that preferences will be given to both local residents and local workers... We look forward to continuing our long relationship with the City of Lake Forest, and thank you for your efforts at providing quality affordable housing that possibly, our store employees may benefit from."