Pulte Homes has received formal approval to build 128 homes on a portion of the former Cuneo grounds in Vernon Hills as part of an arrangement that also will provide millions of dollars for upgrades to the estate's 100-year-old mansion.
Originally envisioned as a private, gated community, several aspects of The Residences at Cuneo Mansion and Gardens development were revised and tweaked during a two-year process that led to Tuesday's village board approval.
Trustees unanimously gave the go-ahead for rezoning and other measures that will allow Loyola University Chicago to sell Pulte about 53 of the site's 97 acres for development.
The property will be sold in two pieces, with the first closing expected this summer. Building would occur in two phases, with 66 homes followed by 62 homes.
"This really was a culmination of over two years' worth of efforts between Loyola, the village and Pulte Homes on the proposed development, as well as the preservation and maintenance agreement which will help fund the preservation required for the Cuneo mansion," said Assistant Village Manager Joe Carey.
Various details, such as final engineering and landscape plans, still need approval from the village planning and zoning commission. But the board's preliminary approval of the plan was what Pulte and Loyola have been waiting for.
"The ball is rolling," said Michael Loftsgaarden, project manager for Loyola.
In past discussions, Pulte representatives described the project as a one-of-a-kind, high-quality development at the southwest corner of Milwaukee Avenue and the EJ&E railroad tracks.
But village officials had several concerns about Pulte's proposed gated entrance, private streets, the architectural style of the homes and other matters.
Among the changes:
• Removal of a gated residential entrance.
• Public, not private, streets with a 40-foot right of way and 10-foot easements on both sides.
• Pulte will pay a $650,000 impact fee to the Vernon Hills Park District.
• Enhanced building features and a provision that no home within four houses on either side can be the same architectural style or color.
• Maintaining Loyola's exit-only onto Museum Boulevard, rather than requiring a full access to Milwaukee Avenue.
The village also removed a condition requiring the dedication of property to the Illinois Department of Transportation for a right of way along Milwaukee Avenue, and it will allow a path along Milwaukee to be built in phases.
"From Day 1, there will be (pedestrian) access to the retail shopping and grocery centers immediately to the north," Carey said.
The Cuneo Foundation in 2009 donated the grounds and massive Italian villa-style mansion and its contents -- valued at $50 million -- to Loyola, with the caveat that it be maintained for at least 20 years. The intent from the beginning was to sell a portion of the land and use the proceeds to create a self-sustaining campus.
But before approvals for Pulte were forthcoming, the village required $3 million be set aside and used by Loyola for repairs and improvements so the mansion could reopen to the public.
Eventually, the mansion will be open to the public eight days a month, according to Loftsgaarden, but major work, such as replacing the main flat roof and skylight above the Great Hall, will be required.