Private investment in downtown Libertyville dipped last year, but that's not a bad thing, say those involved with MainStreet Libertyville Inc., the not-for-profit group that has been working to improve the area since 1989.
The number of new businesses also dropped, from 12 in 2015 to six last year, according to the organization's annual report. But whether it is a desire of existing businesses to stay put or lack of available space, the powers that be aren't complaining.
"Right now, it's a packed downtown," said Andy Lausch, chairman of the MainStreet board of directors. "Last I heard, if we're not 100 percent (leased) we're right at 100 percent."
According to a financial summary, private downtown commercial reinvestment totaled about $1.56 million in 2016, compared with $2.9 million in 2015. That's because property sales are included with other projects, such as building renovations, in the total, and there was more activity last year in that regard, according to Pam Hume, MainStreet executive director.
"We have businesses that are either expanding or relocating downtown. It's not like they're going elsewhere," she said. The 2016 report lists five business expansions/relocations compared with three in 2015.
For example, a new restaurant called Main Street Social is planning to open in the spring in two renovated storefronts, and a jazz-oriented club is planned across the street in The Manchester building, where apartments completed last year rent for up to $3,300 per month.
On Jan. 20, the village opened the second parking deck in about seven years built to serve the increasingly popular downtown.
"The garage was due to the vibrancy of the MainStreet Organization," Mayor Terry Weppler said in the report. The village contributed $10,000 to MainStreet in 2016. The group is responsible for organizing and hosting a variety of seasonal events, such as a farmers market and Out to Lunch.
Lausch said a MainStreet mobile application and overhaul of the organization's website to include online sign ups, for example, were introduced in 2016 to strengthen the connection with residents and visitors. Increasing residential membership is a goal this year, he said.
Another emphasis will be on "European style" business signs that hang over the sidewalk. MainStreet offers a $275 incentive to offset the application and permit costs. So far, one has been installed but four are in the works and others are interested, according to Mark Anderson, co-chair of MainStreet's design committee.