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updated: 7/3/2019 7:12 PM

Busy Brains calls off plan for permanent children’s museum in Lake Villa

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  • The building that was planned as the permanent home of Busy Brains Children's Museum is now for sale on Cedar Avenue in downtown Lake Villa.

    The building that was planned as the permanent home of Busy Brains Children's Museum is now for sale on Cedar Avenue in downtown Lake Villa.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Heidi Alexander looks over the interior of what had been considered the future permanent home of Busy Brains Children's Museum on Cedar Avenue in downtown Lake Villa.

    Heidi Alexander looks over the interior of what had been considered the future permanent home of Busy Brains Children's Museum on Cedar Avenue in downtown Lake Villa.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, 2018

 
 

The longtime pursuit of a permanent home for Busy Brains Children's Museum is on hold, as the organization has put its would-be site in Lake Villa up for sale.

The former Chrysler dealership at 130 Cedar Ave., in what is regarded as the village's downtown, is available for $225,000. It's being marketed as a good spot for a brew pub, reception hall, youth center, or office or retail space.

In lieu of an extensive rehab, the 14,171-square-foot building also could be demolished and replaced with a multistory building with commercial space on the first floor and residential above, according to the listing.

Putting it for sale marks the end of the nonprofit Busy Brains' idea to establish a permanent facility in the old dealership.

"That's our ultimate goal still, to have a permanent home," said Heidi Alexander, co-founder of the venture that started in 2003 at a kitchen table. "It's absolutely not the end for Busy Brains."

The museum is in discussions for three locations to serve as pop-up sites one month at a time from October through December. Meanwhile, the museum will continue to bring its traveling exhibits to parties, day care facilities, festivals and other locations.

"This 'pop-up' will allow us to establish ourselves as a destination and will hopefully generate support to allow us to pursue a new permanent location," said co-founder Alison Price.

The permanent museum in Lake Villa was dashed by a combination of unexpected expenses and impatience by village officials to get something going on Cedar Avenue, which is within walking distance of a Metra station and Lehmann Park along Cedar Lake.

Three years ago, the area was designated as a special taxing district, which allows for development incentives. Busy Brains was gifted the building, and in May 2015, the village agreed to provide $50,000 for repairs -- on the condition the museum would be open and operating by Dec. 31, 2017.

While the roof and seven huge interior trusses were repaired, there was no grand opening. The agreement was extended a year, but with expenses outpacing funds, progress stalled. The village found Busy Brains in default and demanded the money back.

The museum got a loan and paid its bill, and it later determined that selling the building would be the best course, Alexander said.

"It just didn't seem like it was going to work out. We didn't have $50,000 laying around," she said. "So we decided to pursue alternate options."

Village Administrator Karl Warwick said officials were hopeful but the rehab requirements were more extensive than expected.

The village is wrapping up a three-year streetscape project to include new sidewalks, decorative lighting, new signage and other features along Cedar from Railroad Avenue to the heavily traveled Grand Avenue (Route 132).

Some development has occurred in the area. Timothy O'Toole's Pub Lake Villa opened in May 2018 in the former Blackthorn Grille at Cedar and Grand. A medical office building is being proposed on Grand and a brewpub is being discussed, Warwick said.