Panattoni Plans Industrial Building at Former Forge Club site in Vernon Hills

Monday, June 14th 2021

A pending plan for a fifth building at the South Lake Industrial Center in Vernon Hills would erase the vestiges of a former family farm and a once exclusive dinner club that operated for 40 years.

The proposed new building would incorporate the last portion of the Darling Farm and another property just west of Milwaukee Avenue and south of Corporate Woods Parkway where the Forge Club operated until closing in 2013.

California-based Panattoni Development Co. Inc., one of the largest industrial developers in the Chicago area, bought the 60-acre Darling Farm last year.

Construction began last fall on the $100 million South Lake center, which totals more than 904,000 square feet. One building is nearly complete and three others are in various stages of construction, according to Mike Atkinson, the village’s community development director.

They’re being built with a flexible design that can accommodate multiple users per building. No tenants have been announced.

“There is a huge demand for it,” Atkinson said. “I think that’s why they’re comfortable building these size of buildings on a speculative basis.”

What then was the largest open tract in Vernon Hills had been in the Darling family for generations and remained undeveloped even as the Corporate Woods business center was built around it in the 1980s.

One piece of the property was too narrow to develop on its own, but the company has contracts to purchase two adjacent properties to create space for a fifth building, according to John Pagliari of Panattoni.

The two properties are the 5-acre Forge Club site abutting Lifetime Fitness on the north and an open 3.5-acre parcel owned by Corporate Woods. Those combined with the last Darling Farm piece total about 13 acres.

The company is seeking various approvals to combine the properties and expand its South Lake center with construction of a fifth, light-industrial building.

Built in 1970, the members-only Forge Club resembled a blacksmith shop and was modeled after the Anvil Club in East Dundee. It has been vacant since it closed.

In 2016, a proposal for 70 townhouses on the site to be known as “The Forge” was rejected by the village board as being too tight and not appropriate for the site.

In 2019, Anshe Tikvah (People of Hope) proposed to reuse and expand the former dinner club for multiple activities, including the first Jewish licensed substance abuse recovery home in Illinois. The idea was regarded favorably, but it didn’t materialize.

Atkinson said Panattoni’s proposal makes sense.

“I like the way the (proposed) building looks. I like that it is finally a use for this property that seems to fit,” said Hal Morris, chair of the village’s planning zoning commission.

Mick Zawislak

Daily Herald