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The Glen: From Naval Air Station to Economic Engine

Decades in the planning, now a retail, entertainment and residential hub

The Glen we see today is the culmination of intense planning.

Once the Glenview Naval Air Station, it's now a hub for retail, entertainment and residential development that hosts to a wide cross-section of patrons and residents, from diners enjoying a business lunch to mothers strolling with little ones in tow.

"This was our effort to protect the interests of the community," said Don Owen, the village's director of capital projects. "There was an incredible amount of creative and innovative thinking by the whole team. It was always about the community."

A Short History

Packed with retail stores, a variety of dining spots, entertainment venues, residential communities and outdoor retreat areas, The Glen spans more than 1,000 acres. Between 1937 and 1995, the land made up the Glenview Naval Air Station. When the Pentagon decided to close the base, the Village of Glenview stepped up as "master developer" of the parcel in order to ensure that all land use decisions were controlled at a local level.  The name, "The Glen," was developed in order to market the land to various real estate developers. 

The Glen is registered as a tax increment financing district (TIF), an economic development tool that aids municipalities in redeveloping underdeveloped areas. Since the closure of the military base, all new property tax revenue has been funneled into a dedicated TIF fund used to enhance the area, explained Village Communications Director Janet Spector Bishop.

The Glen TIF was established in 1988, and has since generated $150 million in additional property tax revenue. The TIF is projected to dissolve in 2017-2018 when revenue will then be streamed back to the various jurisdictions in the area. The Glen includes approximately 1 million square feet of retail space that annually generates more than $2 million in sales tax and home rule sales for Glenview. During the last decade, businesses, organizations and public entities in the area have created about 4,600 jobs.

Over the years, the village marketed and sold the land to residential, commercial and corporate developers.  The result is a mixed-use development that balances residential areas, retail centers, some corporate parks, golf courses, a Park District facility, a local middle school and plenty of open space.

"At present most of the land no longer belongs to the village," said Spector Bishop.  "It either belongs to retail/commercial property owners or it was sold to residential developers who in turn sold homes to private owners."

The Glen Today

The Glen draws people from the neighboring suburbs, including Northbrook, Evanston, Niles and Morton Grove. Gallery Park and its Lake Glenview, one of the large outdoor areas at The Glen, is a favorite spot for relaxing, jogging, playing soccer or tennis, and fishing. Natasha and Basil Livaditis, Glenview residents for more than nine years, enjoy the lake and would like to see "more outdoor activities."

"The Glen is convenient for our community and brings more people into our town," said Penelope Hurlado, a Glenview resident for 14 years. "It also provides more jobs."

Lake Glenview is a go-to hot spot for canine patrons as well. Glenview residents Nathan Leifer and Danielle Vairo walk their dog at the site on a regular basis and say they would like to see a large dog park added to The Glen. Currently, Lake Glenview is one of the few spaces to walk your dog, Nathan explained. 

On the retail and dining front, The Glen Town Center on Tower Road attracts shoppers and diners alike. Chantal Chaput recently relocated to Glenview from Montreal, Canada. While she enjoys the proximity of The Glen to her job at nearby Kraft Foods and appreciates the many conveniences of living at The Glen, Chantal says she hopes to see more retail stores in the future.

 The Row Boat Theory

The Village of Glenview took a gutsy move by establishing itself as master developer, explained Owen, the director of capital projects.  Over several years and hundreds of public meetings, the community developed a "Consensus Reuse Plan" for how this land should be developed. 

Throughout the development process, the village's team implemented what then Village Manager Paul McCarthy called "The Row Boat Theory."

"To work on this project we were all getting into the boat together," Owen explained. "If someone poked a hole in the boat, we would all go down together."

The theory's collective "we" included all the Glenview jurisdictions ultimately affected by the project, including three schools, the library, park district and of course, the village.

Into the Future

"Today, The Glen is substantially built out and is becoming more integrated into Glenview as a whole." Owen said. 

The Glen continues to grow. It now offers a new post office with ample parking, an art building and an amazing park center, which provides a wide variety of services, classes and recreational opportunities. Also new, the Kohl Children's Museum recently moved from Wilmette to The Glen. 

A multitude of doctor's medical offices and other businesses are located on the north end of Patriot and on Compass Road. Mead Johnson Nutrition, best known for its Enfamil and other infant formulas, recently opened corporate offices in The Glen and decided to move an additional 50 jobs there from Evansville, IN. Naturally, some of these jobs will be transfers from Indiana but a majority will represent new jobs in the area.

And what happens next in The Glen?  There are many hopes on the "wish list" for the future of The Glen and Glenview.  Some residents would like to see more shopping and additional concerts while others hope for more fairs and movies in Gallery Park.

The general consensus seems to remain pretty consistent though, and perhaps summed up best by Owen: "It is hoped that five years from now the people of Glenview will enjoy all its component parts. The Glen is part of Glenview. It's all our community."

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