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Economic development is now the focus of Lansing Country Club property’s future

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Above: Developers and the Village of Lansing hope the former Lansing Country Club property will ultimately “add value” to the village through economic development. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Priority has become “adding value,” but no final decisions made on Lansing Country Club property

LANSING, Ill. (May 7, 2024) – It’s been over three years since the Lansing Country Club sold its 150 acres to Saxon Partners, a real estate investment and development company. Split down the middle between Lansing and Munster, the property’s future in Indiana has taken preliminary steps toward becoming a commercial center. No firm plans have been made for the Lansing portion’s future, though conceptual conversations have clarified the ways Saxon Partners and the Village of Lansing want the roughly 70 acres to “add value” to the Lansing community.

What’s changed in three years?

When The Lansing Journal spoke to Gary Warfel, Development Director for Saxon Partners, in 2021, he was gauging interest from the Village of Lansing, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the Lan-Oak Park District, and other entities that might have a vision for the property’s future. Given the Lansing portion’s high tax burden compared to the Munster portion, Warfel was unsure if the property had much of a future from an economic development perspective.

Over three years later, his thinking has changed.

The NICTD West Lake Corridor train line is being constructed on the eastern border of the former Lansing Country Club. (Photo provided by Saxon Partners)

“I didn’t really see the opportunity in Lansing. But that has changed,” Warfel said. “I think the train station has changed some of that. I think Ridge Road looks better than it ever has. I think Lansing is really making some moves in the right direction.”

Now, Warfel believes the property can ultimately serve as a tax generator for the Village, and add value in a variety of ways.

“The priority has shifted to economic development and value creation — something that adds value for the town,” Warfel said.

Warfel grew up in Lansing, graduated from TF South, and currently describes himself as a “part-time” resident of Lansing. He described the opportunity to work for Massachusetts-based Saxon Partners on developing land in his hometown as “serendipitous.”

Movement in Munster

The process of making the 80 Munster acres accessible has been slow-moving, said Warfel, because of ongoing conversations with Indiana utility company NIPSCO.

“There are so many major infrastructure projects that are going in place right now in Northern Indiana. It just takes time,” Warfel said. “Along this NIPSCO right of way, there’s some very sensitive utility infrastructure. So we have to make sure we do it right. And that’s been taking more time than we thought, but we’re happy with the progress.”

The plans for the parcel include access via two new roadways: an extension from Fisher Street, and another called Maple Leaf Boulevard, which will come from Maple Leaf Crossing, an ongoing development along Calumet Avenue in Munster.

Warfel said the finalization of agreements with both NIPSCO and the Town of Munster are “very close.”

Once roadway access to the property is achieved, Saxon will begin marketing the site to potential users. Warfel believes commercial interests, especially healthcare technology and innovation, would make good use of the property.

The conceptual renderings of the Munster portion of the Lansing Country Club include multiple commercial buildings, as well as the location of the two new roads that will be created to access the area. Click the image to view full-screen. (Graphic provided by Saxon Partners)

What does “added value” look like in Lansing?

Lansing Village Administrator Dan Podgorski is part of a group of Lansing officials that have met with Warfel to discuss the future of the former Lansing Country Club.

“Our priorities are to add value to the neighborhood,” Podgorski said.

That overall priority breaks down into a few potential uses for the Illinois parcel, the primary of which is a commercial use. Warfel said the commercial aspect of the Lansing portion will likely be complementary to whatever entities end up in Munster.

“We see Lansing as an extension of Munster,” he said. “The success of the Illinois side will depend on how the Indiana side starts to take place.”

Of the 70 acres in Illinois, roughly half is usable land, while the other half is lake. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

While commercial development is a priority, Podgorski said the Village doesn’t want the neighborhood feel of that portion of Wentworth Avenue to change.

“Our objective would be to try to preserve the neighborhood, and the flow of traffic,” he said. “We’re not looking to add anything that will upset the neighborhood and change the vibe of that part of town.”

Any commercial use would require rezoning, as the property is currently zoned as a residential area. Rezoning requires an appearance before the Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as ultimate approval by the Village Board.

As far as Saxon’s original concern of property taxes — which spelled the end of the Lansing Country Club in the first place — Warfel said there’s still some concern.

“It’ll be a large consideration, but if we can increase the commerce there … we can probably work with the county and the village to get a TIF (Tax Increment Financing), and that will allow us to use future growth and revenue to help with the infrastructure, which will make it viable,” Warfel said. “There’s a way to do it. I’m somewhat concerned with the tax base in Illinois, but not entirely concerned.”

Residential potential

In addition to commercial priorities, Warfel and Podgorski both said they’re open to exploring residential uses on the site.

“Some sort of residential use I think would work there,” Podgorski said. “You look at the country club condominiums on the north side of the lake, they’re very popular. Something that replicates those on the south end of the lake certainly could work.”

Lansing Village Administrator Dan Podgorski said the Lakeview Club Condominiums could be a good model for residential development on the former Lansing Country Club property. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

“I think a good, strong mixed use would be the best,” Warfel said. “Most likely for-sale townhomes or condominiums.”

One additional feature the Village would like to see included in the property’s future is a detention pond to help with flooding issues in nearby neighborhoods.

Bike path connection through the former Lansing Country Club

Both Saxon and the Village have also prioritized a trail on the Lansing land that would connect the Thorn Creek Trail system to the Pennsy Greenway.

“That’s a priority,” Warfel said. “By connecting those two, this becomes one of the largest trail systems in the midwest.”

In late 2020, the Village of Lansing received a grant to start engineering work on the roughly 2.5 miles of trail that would need to be constructed to connect the Thorn Creek Trail to the Pennsy Greenway. The former country club property could prove to be a critical piece of the connection.

“Maybe the extension runs through the former country club, or maybe there’s an off-shoot of the extension that runs through the country club,” Podgorski said.

What about a forest preserve? Or a new park?

Converting the property into a forest preserve or a park is no longer considered to be the “highest and best use” of the land by Saxon Partners, Warfel said.

Lansing Country Club
This master plan for the former country club property was developed for the Lan-Oak Park District, and includes a boat launch, a multi-use trail, a nine-hole disc golf course, and an archery range. Click the image to view full-screen. (Graphic obtained from the Lan-Oak Park District)

“With the Forest Preserve District, we never really got into that detailed of a discussion,” Warfel said. “The [Lan-Oak Park District] did throw out a few ideas, but we’re just not quite ready for that.”

Documents obtained by The Lansing Journal show the Lan-Oak Park District paid $16,500 to Hitchcock Design Group to design a master plan for the site. The plan includes a boat launch, fishing pier, nine-hole disc golf course, archery range, picnic pavilions, and a multi-use trail.

“I didn’t say no, I just said we’re not ready to make a decision on it,” Warfel said of the park district’s proposal. “I can’t commit, but I certainly don’t want to say no to creative ideas. … I think we need to do what plays off of Indiana and what brings the most benefit to the Village.”

Other ideas for the former Lansing Country Club

Warfel hopes to maintain the former hole 7 green as a memorial to Tony Lema, a pro golfer who died in a plane crash on the small green in 1966.

The green of hole 7 is where pro golfer Tony Lema’s plane crashed in 1966. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

As for some of the smaller areas of the Lansing property, such as the location of the former clubhouse, and the location of the former school building at the corner of 186th and Wentworth, the future remains uncertain, but Warfel believes there are some creative opportunities for those spots.

The small peninsula of land that was once the home of the Lansing Country Club clubhouse is unique, and could have a creative future use. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

“We’re still early, even though it’s been a couple years,” Warfel said. “These are legacy projects that take time. We’re patient, and we want to make sure we do it right.”

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Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.

1 COMMENT

  1. Fifteen three or four floor buildings of commercial/office space seems like a lot of traffic for a two lane street from Fisher to Maple Leaf to Calumet. Am I looking at this right?

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