Proceeds from a land sale to build new homes could fund restoration of the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens in Vernon Hills, but several issues must be resolved before ground is broken.
Zoning, restrictions on the land use, the number of homes proposed and a multimillion dollar fund to make repairs to the ornate, century-old home west of Milwaukee Avenue are among essential details to be worked out by the village, Lake County and Loyola University Chicago, which owns the property.
"If everything goes well and the project is ultimately approved, I don't see any construction starting until probably the fall of next year, and there's a lot of work between now and then," Village Manager John Kalmar said.
A key for village officials is to ensure the mansion and its contents, including valuable art work, will be upgraded and preserved and at some point reopened for public viewing and use.
Loyola acquired the 93-acre property and facilities in 2010 as a gift from the Cuneo family. The school has built a pavilion, which is used for classes, and so far has invested $1.5 million to maintain and repair the mansion set in the heavily wooded site.
The mansion and related structures were in poor condition when the property was acquired, and Loyola is looking for a funding source to pay for an anticipated $2 million more in repairs and other work.
To that end, Loyola has been working with Pulte Homes, which wants to buy 53 acres and build 128 single-family homes to be clustered to provide each with a view of the woods. A portion of the sale would be used to fund the repairs to the mansion and establish a long-term fund for the building and historic grounds.
"There's going to be a long-term agreement that talks about preservation of the property itself," Kalmar said.
This campus development agreement would establish a $3 million fund and detail work to be done, including a new roof and replacing windows, for example.
"We didn't want anybody to think the $3 million was for cutting the lawn," Bernard Citron, an attorney representing Loyola told the board Tuesday during a preliminary discussion.
The document also would detail how the village, another entity or nonprofit group could purchase the mansion and grounds for $1 after 2030, when Loyola's requirement to maintain the facilities ends.
Loyola also needs approvals from the village and the county, which provides water service, to govern future development. Another hurdle is the prohibition of residential development on a portion of the land Loyola wants to sell, Kalmar said. The covenants on the property would need to be changed and approved by village and county boards. And there are other concerns.
Longtime Trustee Thom Koch said the 23 homes on the south end of the proposed development would block the view of the landmark mansion from Milwaukee Avenue.
"We understand the concern and we'll look at that," Citron said.
Koch and others also were concerned about the valuable art work that has been removed because of conditions inside.
"I would like to see something in writing saying those pieces will come back," Trustee Barbara Williams said. "I hope someday the museum could be brought back."
Loyola and Pulte officials promised to work diligently to address issues and concerns and the village board informally agreed to proceed with the process.