Waukegan City Council approves plan for marine retail area

A bid to transform a mostly unused parking lot south of the Waukegan Yacht Club into a “major marine retail hub for the entire Midwest” moved forward this month when the Waukegan City Council approved a Wisconsin-based company’s plans for a $5 million sales and service complex.

Bay Marine of Sturgeon Bay, Wis., is set to break ground next month on a 40,000-square-foot showroom for “high-end marine retail and boats” and a 7,000-square-foot administrative center on a five-acre plot southeast of Madison Street and Pershing Road, which sits on the northern boundary of the Waukegan Port District headquarters.

Waukegan senior planner Steve Sabourin described the concept as an example of private-sector projects encouraged by the city’s 2003 comprehensive plan for lakefront redevelopment.

“This (complex) would be located in what is identified as the ‘Harborfront’ in the Downtown / Lakefront Master Plan,” Sabourin wrote in a report earlier this year to the council. “The Harborfront would contain a central park, active marina and retail district, public lakefront and clear connection to the downtown.

Citing 'negative image,' Waukegan bans some storefront security shutters

Citing ‘negative image,’ Waukegan bans some storefront security shutters

When the cellular store Stay Connected opened a little more than a year ago in West Humboldt Park, the owner installed a security shutter outside to deter would-be criminals.

Manager Juan Garcia says the rolldown metal screen gives him peace of mind, especially since vandals have twice broken windows…

When the cellular store Stay Connected opened a little more than a year ago in West Humboldt Park, the owner installed a security shutter outside to deter would-be criminals.

Manager Juan Garcia says the rolldown metal screen gives him peace of mind, especially since vandals have twice broken windows…

(Tony Briscoe and Marwa Eltagouri)

According to plans reviewed and approved on March 7 by the council, Bay Marine would also install a 100-ton lift arm for launching and retrieving watercraft between 50 and 100 feet in length. The construction timeline calls for that equipment and the two buildings to be in place by October.

Long-range concepts call for the company to build an additional 7,500-square-foot service building and a 30,000-square-foot pavilion-style structure in a parcel north of Madison that adjoins the harbor’s Siver Park. Details submitted to the city by Bay Marine describe the pavilion as having removable sides, allowing it to be used for indoor boat storage during the winter and then for covered but not enclosed community events during the warm-weather months, like concerts and art festivals.

The main showroom would be 36 feet tall at its eaves, fitting under a height limit imposed by the city to avoid shoreline buildings that obstruct views of the lake from the bluff. Recommendations from the city’s planning and zoning department also call on the developer to landscape the surrounding area, replace current chain-link fences with ornamental fencing and use more windows on public-facing walls.

All told, Bay Marine president Matthew Felhofer said in a letter of application to the city that “if our business vision is realized, Waukegan could develop into a major marine retail hub for the entire Midwest.”

“Bay Marine sells and services high-end power boat and motor yacht clients around the country,” Felhofer wrote. “We anticipate that the Waukegan operation will generate in excess of $10 million in gross revenue within three years and employ a minimum of 15 full-time employees within that same time frame.

“We anticipate that our development will draw other relevant marine brokers and dealers to establish a presence in the area. With the current building blocks in place in the form of a large marina that is half renovated and only 64 percent full, and our plans to build out the infrastructure to handle large private motor lots, the stage will be set for broader community development.”

During a March appearance before the council’s Judiciary Committee, 7th Ward Ald. Lisa May asked Felhofer if he had any concerns about dredging issues in Waukegan Harbor, which has seen deep-draft shipping affected by buildup of sand in recent years, particularly following storms. Felhofer indicated that Waukegan isn’t alone in dealing with that issue.

“We are somewhat concerned about the water depth at the north end of the marina, but we’re working with the port authority to address that,” he said. “If dredging is necessary, we have a plan to do that. (So), yes, that is a continuous concern for us regardless of where we’re located, whether it’s Sturgeon Bay or Chicago or wherever.”

The land slated for development is owned by the Waukegan Port District, which announced in February that it had contracted the Siegel-Gallagher Management Company out of Milwaukee to manage operations and marketing at both the harbor and Waukegan National Airport.

In announcing the move, Port District officials said the company will be charged with exploring “additional uses for the harbor and adjacent land that will serve to expand and maximize the activity and revenue potential and the port,” including improvements to restaurants in the area.

danmoran@tribpub.com

Twitter @NewsSunDanMoran


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