Forest Preserves of Cook County and Lan-Oak Park District “interested”
By Josh Bootsma
LANSING, Ill. (September 29, 2021) – Since the Lansing Country Club was sold to the Saxon Partners in December, the property’s story has been a tale of two states: Illinois and Indiana.
A year from now, developers hope to break ground on the next chapter of the historic property’s life in Munster, Indiana, while the future of the Lansing portion remains uncertain.
Gary Warfel is a Development Director at Saxon Partners, and says his company intends to bring a commercial office complex focused on “life sciences, healthcare, business, and commerce” to the Munster portion of the property. Meanwhile, he has gauged interest from various local entities about the Lansing land, though nothing is likely to materialize in the near future.
Office space in Munster
The entire property includes nearly 150 acres of land, with about 70 acres in Illinois and 80 in Indiana. The commercial center will be a 59-acre development on the Indiana portion of the property, and will not include any retail space.
“I think we could have 2,000 to 2,500 employees,” said Warfel of the proposed commercial development. “We’re hoping it’s a good jobs creator for local people, on both sides of the state line.”
Warfel, a TF South graduate, hopes to break ground on the new development in the third quarter of next year, with business occupancy starting as soon as late 2023.
The multi-million dollar development will include multiple buildings and will be accessed via two proposed roadways: one on the northeast side of the site connecting to Fisher Street in Munster and one on the southeast corner of the site called “Maple Leaf Boulevard” that will connect to the in-progress Maple Leaf Crossing development in Munster.
“We’re essentially taking the back door of a property and making it the front door,” Warfel said.
He explained the West Lake Corridor train line that is currently in early construction phases will make the new development a potential option for businesses out of Chicago. The train line will have a station in Munster, connecting the town to Chicago via a 45-minute ride.
The commercial center development will not touch the existing lake, and two new lakes will be created for drainage purposes — one in Indiana and one in Illinois, said Warfel. He also promised that the seventh hole of the old club — which is where golfer Tony Lema died in a plane crash — will be maintained. The hole is located just feet into Indiana, immediately east of the old clubhouse.
Lansing vs. Munster — What’s the difference?
Since the purchase of the property late last year, the development timeline on the Munster portion has quickly materialized, while plans for the Lansing portion are non-existent.
“At this point, we’re just entertaining discussion,” Warfel said of the roughly 70 acres in Illinois.
When asked the difference between the two similarly-sized halves of the former country club, Warfel said, “Real estate tax definitely factors into it. There’s some market dynamics that factor into it. It’s no surprise that the economic climate in Munster is far better than Lansing. A lot of that has to do with Indiana versus Illinois. So taxes are definitely an issue.”
No Lansing plans in place — yet
Because the Lansing property is unattractive for development relative to the Munster property, Warfel says the land will remain untouched in the immediate future.
Warfel said he has spoken with Lansing Mayor Patty Eidam and Village Administrator Dan Podgorski to keep them updated on the status of development.
“But we haven’t made any formal submittals to the village, and I’m not sure we really will or need to at this point, because we really don’t plan on doing anything in Lansing right now,” Warfel said.
Although nothing formal has been put in motion, Warfel has gauged interest from local entities such as the Forest Preserves of Cook County and the Lan-Oak Park District. He has met with both and describes them as “interested.” Another “interested” party is a group of local golfers looking at using the land as a nine-hole golf course. Warfel also said higher education might be a potential good fit for the location, as well as solar energy and indoor agriculture.
The Forest Preserves of Cook County declined to comment on any interest in the property, and although Lan-Oak Park District Senior Superintendent Sharon Desjardins declined to comment on any specifics regarding the property, she said, “The park district is always interested in any opportunity that allows us to preserve open space and offer outdoor recreational activities for the community.”
“We’re not giving up in Illinois,” Warfel said, “we know there’s something there.”
He did acknowledge that he is very interested in creating a bike and walking path through the Illinois and Indiana property to connect the Pennsy Greenway in Munster to the Cook County Forest Preserve trails. This connection would be a different route than previously mentioned by county officials.
Warfel acknowledged that this project is a special one for him, as he grew up in Lansing and graduated from TF South. After college, he left and worked in Los Angeles for many years before coming back to work in Chicago in 2014.
“It’s cool. It’s a full circle sort of opportunity,” he said.
The lakes are still private property, though one remnant of the old sportsman’s club remains: fishing. The Saxon Partners have allowed longtime anglers Mike Ogorek and Kurt Schoettle to manage and maintain the lakes, as well as fishing memberships.
Those interested in becoming fishing members can contact Mike Ogorek at 219-771-7742.
- Financial concerns force Lansing Country Club to sell (January 23, 2021)
- Lansing trail hoped to connect Pennsy Greenway and Thorn Creek Trail (November 13, 2020)