A young family makes the move from Chicago to Lake Forest and never looks back.
words by Rochelle Newman Rubinoff
photography by Robin Subar
styling by Theresa DeMaria
hair & make up by Leanna Ernest of Distinct Artists
wardrobe Neiman Marcus, Northbrook Court
THERE IS something special happening in Lake Forest. After years of having one of the slower moving real estate markets on the North Shore, suddenly the numbers are skewing way up. In fact, according to Mark Pasquesi, president and managing broker of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, “the last two quarters of 2020 were the strongest quarters Lake Forest has ever seen. And then going into 2021, the markets are already off to a roaring start. So right now, with mortgage rates at an all-time low, it’s kind of just the perfect environment
for strong real estate.”
Anne Geraghty Helms, her husband Paul, and their two children are one such family who decided to make the leap from the city to Lake Forest in 2019. “We were both really drawn to Lake Forest. I think because it feels like its own small town. It’s far enough removed from the city that it stands on its own. And we have always dreamed of being small town people, but our careers have made that kind of impossible.” Both Helms and her husband are attorneys who work at large firms in Chicago.
The couple had spoken about moving to the suburbs for years. And now that they have, there is no looking back. Helms says, “Lake Forest has that great feel. It is such a wonderful community. Everyone has been so welcoming.”
“I think you’re always nervous when you move somewhere new. But just after moving in, three neighbors came to our front door to introduce themselves, to offer us anything that we wanted or needed. They couldn’t have been nicer. It’s such a change. It’s not that people in the city aren’t nice. It’s just not how the world works there.”
When they first moved, Helms said she was nervous about her kids crossing the street or riding their bikes by themselves. “And now they run around the neighborhood and I have to keep tabs on them, but in such a good way,” shares Helms.
One of Helms’ favorite things about Lake Forest is living amid the gorgeous natural surroundings. “I think that’s really unique—the number of places where you can be in a residential area, but then also to have that connection to wonderful nature preserves. It is pretty rare. And the beach and lakefront make this community extraordinary. You can feel the community wide appreciation for the trees and all the natural
beauty that we’re lucky enough to have surround us.”
It is clear that the Helms family is not the only one drawn to the many advantages that Lake Forest has to offer. “Lake Forest sales have outpaced any of the other North Shore communities. That’s been exciting for us to see. And the clear trend is movement from the city coming to the suburbs,” Pasquesi says. He attributes this stepped-up movement to a variety of factors. “First and foremost, COVID-19 has changed the way we all live, at least for the foreseeable future. When you look at what is attractive about the city in terms of restaurants, nightlife, entertainment … when COVID hit and all of that shut down, much of the attraction of the city went away. On top of that, basic social distancing. It is hard to social distance in a 400-unit condo building. So people wanted space and they wanted yards and they wanted outdoor space.”
Pasquesi continues, “What’s kind of interesting is that prior to the pandemic, much of what people said about Lake Forest went against what most buyers wanted. Pre-COVID trends were gearing toward smaller homes, less maintenance, smaller yards, just overall kind of more efficient spaces. Then the pandemic hit and what Lake Forest homes had was exactly what people wanted. Larger homes, larger lots, more space between neighbors. What COVID did was make everything in the Lake Forest inventory highly attractive.”
“When you talk about pre-COVID, one of the knocks against Lake Forest when it comes to real estate was the distance from the city in terms of commuting for work every day. But now work from home is the new way. You don’t have as many people that will go to an office. I don’t think it’s going to go back to where people are going to be commuting into the city five days a week. Maybe it’s two days a week. Maybe it’s work from home exclusively. So the tether to the city that was looked at as maybe not ideal for Lake Forest residents because of our distance is no longer an issue,” says Pasquesi.
Not to mention the many benefits Lake Forest offers that both Helms and Pasquesi point out. The award-winning schools. The incredible Department of Parks and Recreation. Lake Forest’s magnificent beachfront. And did we mention Market Square? “Downtown Lake Forest is just awesome,” Helms says. “It is such a fun and friendly place to go. Plus it has such a vibrant mix of restaurants and shops.”
In fact, Helms is so taken with her new community, that she is running for the District 67 School Board. “I’ve learned a lot by having two kids at two different schools in this community. Especially in this unprecedented year. I’ve seen a couple of different ways that schools can operate because my kids were at a private school in the city. But a commitment to kids and education has been part of my practice forever.”
Helms is Director of Counsel for U.S. Pro Bono Programs for her law firm DLA Piper. She is responsible for helping to develop, lead, and manage the firm’s pro bono work in the U.S. Her practice involves representing children and families, including in juvenile justice and immigration proceedings, and advising parents as they navigate issues that impact their children, such as child support, domestic violence,
guardianship, and housing.
“Public service is really a big part of my career and life. I think we’ve seen over the last few months how schools bring our kids together, bring our community together. It has been tough to not have them go to that center of the community every day. And so I am very excited to be able to help make the school district the best it can be for all kids,” Helms says.
When asked what she would advise other families contemplating the move from the city to the suburbs, Helms enthusiastically says, “Just do it! If I had known it was going to be as easy as it’s been, I probably would have made the move a lot earlier.”