Downtown Savior Needs Saving Libertyville Group Strapped for Cash

Article excerpt

Byline: Mick Zawislak

Whether it was the unseasonable cold, conflicts with homecoming activities or other factors, crowds shunned the 14th annual Street Dance festival in downtown Libertyville.

Instead of netting $50,000 or more to keep operations humming at MainStreet Libertyville only $2,000 was raised, organizers of the downtown revitalization group said.

The poor showing may have turned a continuing financial shortfall into a crisis, forcing leaders of the group into making an urgent plea for funding.

"We need some pretty significant donations, especially corporate donations," said Rick Pyter, secretary of the group. "Financially, we're right on the edge."

MainStreet organizes and hosts 17 community events each year, including the popular farmers market and Out-to-Lunch program. All but two are free and attract about 70,000 visitors to the downtown area.

Despite improvements to the food and music at Street Dance, the mid-September event may have run its course. Can the same be said of MainStreet, which was formed in 1989 to reverse the slide in a deteriorating downtown?

"We'll basically have to make the decision whether we go forward or not. It's not tomorrow but it's not far off," added Pam Hume, chairman of the MainStreet board.

Since MainStreet was organized, downtown Libertyville has seen $30 million in private investment. Rents have doubled and, in some cases, tripled to as much as $30 a square foot. Nearly every available retail space is occupied.

The village invested millions in streetscape and other improvements, helping to make the downtown a drawing card and general asset.

MainStreet leaders said the strong downtown benefits the entire community in terms of housing prices and other aspects and that its work should continue.

Money magazine earlier this year, for example, noted the quaint downtown as one of the reasons Libertyville was among the best communities in the country to live. …