Recent efforts by Fox Lake to revitalize its economy and embrace its roots as a resort community has led to the announcement of another major puzzle piece.
Village officials and a local developer have finalized preliminary details to bring a boutique hotel and related amenities to the iconic Mineola lakefront site.
Lake County-based Samsonian Ventures is expected to appear before the village’s planning and zoning commission with documentation for the project within the next two months. A public hearing will also be slated prior to the commission meeting.
“We met this week for pre-application discussions with all the stakeholders on what documents will need to be submitted for the public hearing,” said Donavan Day, the village’s economic development director. “It involved what our engineers will need for the plat map, plus code requirements, before putting it all on paper for submittal.”
A presentation at the March 8 Village Board meeting resulted in approval for a resolution of inducement. The action allows the developer to begin tracking its expenses for eventual reimbursement. It also signaled the board’s interest to assist with the project, which carries an estimated $60 million cost. Offset funding measures such as creating a tax-increment financing district could also come into play.
The 15.5-acre site at 81 Cora Ave., contains 380 feet of frontage on Fox Lake. The property also contains the iconic Mineola Hotel, the last free-standing, wooden-frame building in Illinois with a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
It was shuttered in 2012 because of structural issues, effectively closing an operating bar and restaurant. Mineola Marine has continued to operate at the north end of the site.
“We are under a contract purchase with the Jakstas family for the property, with an anticipated closing date in mid-August,” said Joel Mackintosh, one of the developers. “We have been working with them to incorporate some of the aesthetic features from the original hotel into the new hotel’s appearance, along with artifacts and how the interior will look.
“Over the last year, our structural engineer followed our intention to renovate it, which proved unfeasible,” he continued. “So, we had to pivot and do what we could to keep the old, and pay homage to the Mineola. The initial plan was a high-level concept, now being crafted by us, village staff and architects.”
In the works is a multi-floor boutique hotel, as well as rental cabins and tree houses around the site for glamour-camping, or “glamping.” The project comes under the heading of a planned urban development that allows conditional special use permits to be issued, where village and other agency code requirements are met as a given project progresses.
“This is an exciting time,” Village Administrator Deb Waszak said. “The Lakefront Park and Mineola developments are two separate projects that complement each other, serving as an important piece of our strategic plan.
“Recognizing our unique position on the Chain O’ Lakes is a key driver for our progress,” she said. “Tourism is important to our economy and translates to opportunities for our residents and community.”
Mackintosh added, “We want to capture some of that audience going into Wisconsin, and keep them here in Fox Lake and Illinois. Our group is based in Lake County, and we want to go after developments in communities that other entities may have passed over.”
He indicated the timeline is to close on the property in August, begin site work the following month, enter a formal construction stage during the first part of 2023 and hold a “grand opening” with the first guests staying in May 2024.
Village Mayor Donny Schmit said, “The Samsonian group didn’t ask what the village could offer them to invest in the town. They asked, what does the village see as a good use of the property.
“Fox Lake will benefit greatly from this partnership,” he said. “While we are saddened that the Mineola building could not be saved, we are excited at the start of new traditions and experiences for future generations.”