LAKE FOREST — One local realtor calls Lake Forest a “best kept secret” and some city officials are starting to think keeping it quiet may not be the best idea.
When he presented his opening remarks at City Council’s May 16 meeting at City Hall, Mayor Donald Schoenheider suggested the city is going to take a look at marketing itself as a place to live and work.
“This is an extraordinary place to live as all of you know, an incredible place to raise a family, an incredible place to do business,” Schoenheider said at the meeting. “It may be time as a community to begin to market ourselves. It’s something we’ve never really had to do.”
The concern began when Schoenheider, City Manager Robert Kiely, Jr. and other officials met with members of the real estate industry. Kiely said they get together every quarter but the most recent time there were more concerns than usual.
“At the last meeting there seemed to be growing number of major concerns,” Kiely said. “One issue is the length of time a home stays on the market. They feel Lake Forest needs to market itself.”
Deborah Fischer, a broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Koenig Rubloff and president of the Board of Directors of the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce, calls Lake Forest “the best kept secret.”
“In the community we know how nice we are,” Fischer said. “It’s been a nice secret too long. Lake Forest really needs to promote itself. The taxes in Lake Forest are the lowest on the North Shore. We have phenomenal schools, public, private and parochial.”
Schoenheider said he recognizes the concern of the real estate community and others in town. Beside the time homes remain on the market, he said he and others want to know why young families moving out of the city are picking other towns.
“We’re hearing stories about homes staying on the market a very long period of time, about people looking to relocate out of the city and finding their way to places further south of here and not making it up here,” Schoenheider said at the meeting. “We as a community are concerned about that.”
If Lake Forest does not have the existing housing stock young families crave as they consider a move to the suburbs, Kiely said the city may want to encourage developers to erect those homes.
“The Laurel and Western project is a start in the right direction,” Kiely said, referring to a development recently approved offering single family homes, condominiums and rental apartments. “I think you’ll see some projects coming on line. Young people may want townhomes where they don’t have to cut the grass.”
While Fischer said Lake Forest has diversity in its housing stock, she is also starting to see things she has not observed in the last few years like an increase in new construction. She too said the former site of the municipal services building at Laurel and Western is an example.
“We have a range of housing and even more opportunities with the municipal services site,” Fisher said. “That may fit for somebody who wants to have their primary residence elsewhere.”
More custom homes may come online where young families can design what they want for a 21st Century lifestyle, according to Fischer.
“We want to see what motivates (young families) to come out of the city,” Fischer said.
Lake Forest will use its resources to spearhead the marketing effort, according to Schoenheider. He was not specific in his remarks May 16 but he was definite in his desire and the city’s role.
“The city is going to take the lead,” Schoenheider said. “We’ll work closely with groups in town but as time evolves over the next few weeks and months you’ll see a more active role. Hopefully it will pay off.”
Kiely called the formation of a group to study and create a marketing program “very likely.” He said things are in the very early stages.
“Our goal is to determine who we are, our (community) DNA, before we proceed,” Kiely said. “We want people to give us a look and if you like what you see we hope you’ll stay. We are not going to make us something we are not.”