DELAVAN — For more than a century, Lake Lawn Resort has been a place to vacation, play golf, have dinner or get married.
Soon, it could be a place to live.
The owners of Lake Lawn are joining with a private developer in unveiling plans for a new residential neighborhood within the boundaries of the resort property.
The plan for 100 homes and apartments with private access to Delavan Lake represents the newest proposal for vacant land just east of the existing resort.
The resort itself is not changing, but the new housing would represent a major addition to Lake Lawn’s popular vacation and banquet facilities, which have been operating on the lakefront here for decades.
“It’d be completely different,” said Larry Malsch, a board member of the Delavan Historical Society.
Lake Lawn has struck a partnership with Fairwyn Development Inc. of Lake Geneva for a project called “The Harbor Club at Lake Lawn.” The estimated 40-acre development would occur on Lake Lawn property at the intersection of state Highway 50 and County Road F.
According to plans submitted to the city, the project would include 60 homes, 40 apartments, and a new marina and clubhouse with about 50 new boat piers on the lake.
Brian Pollard, president of Fairwyn Development, said he has been talking for years with Lake Lawn owners about developing the site.
“This is a beautiful piece of property that is under-utilized,” he said.
If city officials approve the proposal, Pollard hopes to begin construction work this summer and have the first homes available by spring 2021.
Lake Lawn general manager Dave Sekeres and other resort officials could not be reached for comment.
Lake Lawn began in the 1880s as a hotel, and later grew into a resort with a golf course, a ballroom and other amenities. By the 1920s, it had gained notoriety as a spot for TV broadcasts and orchestra concerts featuring famed bandleader Lawrence Welk.
The estimated 150-acre property today includes restaurants, swimming pools, a spa, boat rentals and special packages for weddings or other private events overlooking Delavan Lake.
The resort was annexed from the town of Delavan into the city of Delavan in the late 1980s.
In recent years, Lake Lawn’s amenities have attracted growing numbers of local residents in addition to visiting tourists from Chicago and elsewhere.
“They’ve become a very popular place,” said Sandy Behn, a former longtime waitress at the resort’s upscale Frontier Restaurant.
Last year, resort management introduced the Lake Lawn Queen, a boat offering summertime tours on Delavan Lake.
The vacant land on the east side of the property has generated other development ideas over the years, including a convention center that could host large trade shows.
Mark Wendorf, the city’s public works director, said there also was once talk of four-story condominium structures. In contrast, the current plans for homes and apartments appear to be more acceptable, Wendorf said.
“This is definitely less intense,” he said. “It’s a viable plan. We’ve just got to go over some of the details.”
The development proposal is pending before the Delavan Plan Commission, which ultimately will make a recommendation to the Delavan City Council on whether to approve the project.
Among the issues being discussed with city officials is the potential for more traffic, with potentially 100 new families making Lake Lawn their home. The development plan includes a main entrance into the neighborhood on County Road F, starting with traffic signals at the intersection and possibly converting to a roundabout later.
City officials also are seeking details on storm-water controls, emergency vehicle access and vacation rental possibilities inside the Harbor Club at Lake Lawn.
Malsch, who serves as town chairman in the town of Delavan, said the development site is directly adjacent to the town. So local officials are anxious to see details of the project.
“Until we see the plans, I don’t think we know how it’ll impact us,” he said.
Pollard, whose company has done residential development elsewhere in the region, said he is encouraged by a positive response so far from city planners.
If the project is approved, Pollard said, his company will develop the homes and apartments, while Lake Lawn owners will build the marina and clubhouse as common areas for the neighborhood’s homeowners association.
The neighborhood and adjacent resort will blend together, he said, so that the new residents can use the golf course and other amenities. And guests at Lake Lawn, he added, might be able to rent one of the homes as an alternative to a guest suite in the resort.
“It’s a good fit between us,” Pollard said of the development partnership.
The development plan does not call for any changes in the layout or operation of Lake Lawn Resort.
Patti Marsicano, president of the Delavan Historical Society, said she always hoped to see a convention center built on the resort’s vacant property. But the new residential neighborhood, Marsicano said, will not detract from the resort’s popularity as a spot for vacations and weddings and such.
“Lake Lawn Resort is going to be Lake Lawn Resort,” she said. “I don’t think any of that is going to change.”