Home Sweet Hometown

by Rachel Gast

Home Sweet Hometown

Embracing New Urbanism in the School Street Development

by Rachel Gast

What’s in a Neighborhood?

Several Chicago suburbs are getting an upgrade—by going back to the basics. In 2009, John McLinden formed the design, development and construction company StreetScape, which aims to take existing neighborhoods and give them the vibrant feel of a smaller, close-knit community. Soon after, he revitalized a Libertyville, IL, foreclosure site with twenty-six beautiful single family homes, now known as the School Street neighborhood.

“We started that project in the midst of the 2010 housing crisis,” McLinden recalls. “It was originally going to be townhomes … we bought the site on foreclosure, and we did the unthinkable and built twenty-six single family homes” all in the style of new urbanism.


What is New Urbanism?

“The reality is, new urbanism is really not new at all,” McLinden says. “It’s what’s been in beloved cities around the country.”

New Urbanism is all about connecting the community together. Elements include wide front porches and pedestrian-friendly streets, encouraging a high-degree of neighborly interaction.

McLinden and the StreetScape team had no doubt New Urbanism would make the School Street project a success. School Street in Libertyville is the first of many new urban neighborhoods on McLinden’s docket, with the Chicago suburbs of Lake Zurich and Grayslake, and a Nashotah site just west of Milwaukee, already in the works.

But what are the homeowners drawn to?

“It’s truly creative,” McLinden explains. The StreetScape team simply asks the homeowners how they live, and they customize the home accordingly. New Urbanism fosters an “authentic sense of community. The people are living close to each other and they are very, very connected to the town of Libertyville, which is about three hundred yards away.”

The School Street residents are a short walk away from all of Libertyville’s bike trails, restaurants and cultural centers. Each picturesque home is built to the residents’ individual needs, while complementing each other in style.  It’s easy to imagine the idyllic street on a summer night, the homeowners either on their porches or walking back from dinner.

McLinden says, “I think [the School Street design] aligns with a major trend in America where people are wanting to live better, not bigger.”

Ultimate Consumer Product

“Homeowners that are purchasing homes from StreetScape do not want to be burdened with maintaining their homes,” McLinden says. He adds, “Ninety percent of the exterior” on the School Street project is Hardie® siding. Hardie® siding products are Engineered for Climate® to stand up to the demands of Libertyville’s climate and weather.

“James Hardie is the go-to,” he states. “If there are any issues, or if our installation team has any questions, James Hardie is there” to answer them. On the School Street project, “there was a homeowner who had questions about the installation … the James Hardie reps came out” to address their concerns.

“There’s an excellent color palette that is expanding, that’s nice and gives the customer a lot of choices, and the palette is designed to complement one color to the next,” McLinden continues. “Hardie® siding is our go-to exterior product.”

Want to see more? Check out the StreetScape website or visit their School Street Facebook page.