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Subdivision bug bites Crystal Lake investor

Published: Sunday, June 29, 2014 5:00 a.m. CDT
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The 19 town houses planned for Somerset in Lake Zurich will be in three buildings. Two six-unit buildings will have lake views with prices ranging from $349,000 to $379,000. The building with seven units has prices ranging from $299,000 to $339,000.
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The Somerset development in downtown Lake Zurich is adjacent to the lake, a public beach and a park.
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Designs for bathrooms in the Somerset town houses of Lake Zurich can differ. This is one of the designs.
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Hardwood flooring and stainless steel appliances are part of the kitchen package in town houses at Somerset in Lake Zurich.
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Fireplaces are standard fare in townhouses at Somerset in Lake Zurich.

CRYSTAL LAKE – If the recent past is an indication, Charlie Murphy is addicted to subdivisions.

A resident of Crystal Lake, Murphy’s office is in a different locale. It is in one of his more recent enterprises, Hawthorn Trails in Hawthorn Woods.

In the past six years – and not counting the Hawthorn Woods project – the 51-year-old Murphy has been active in four other subdivisions, two in Buffalo Grove and one each in Lincolnshire and Lakewood.

He has added to the four. His newest projects are Lansdowne and Wimbledon Estates, both in Lake Bluff, and Somerset in Lake Zurich. That brings his subdivision total to eight.

Of the six lots in Lansdowne, two are sold. Murphy’s company, Icon Building Group, has Foxford Development as a partner in this project. Peter Brennan is Foxford’s president.

“Of the two lots sold in Lansdowne, we have started a house with 9,200 square feet of finished living space on one, and the other will have a house going up in the near future,” Murphy said. “Lansdowne homes are $2.5 million and up. The property is absolutely spectacular. One of the remaining lots is on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan and has its own private beach.”

For price information on that lot, call Murphy at 815-715-2536.

Foxford and Icon also are partners at Wimbledon Estates. “There are seven lots. Icon just started a spec home on one of them. It will have 5,000 square feet of living space, four bedrooms, five bathrooms and a four-car garage when completed. It is listed for $1.3 million,” Murphy said.

The third project shared by the development partners is Somerset, construction of which is expected to start in August, Murphy said. Somerset is in downtown Lake Zurich adjacent to the lake, a public beach and a park.

Somerset originally was designed for 39 town houses, and 20 were built and sold before the country’s economic collapse arrived in 2008.

“Those first units sold for as much as $600,000 [each], and we took over and are building the remaining 19 units in three buildings. The first to be built – and we are applying for building permits now – will have seven units, and the other two buildings [will have] six units apiece. The two six-unit buildings will have lake views, and prices will range from $349,000 to $379,000. The building with seven units has prices ranging from $299,000 to $339,000,” Murphy said.

The townhouses range in size from 1,986 to 2,242 square feet of living space, and each will include three bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms and a two-car garage. Finishes for the units include granite countertops, maple cabinets, upgraded carpet, hardwoods and tile. All units have fireplaces, Murphy said.

Psenka Architects of Barrington is the company designing the town houses. Marketing is contracted to Premier Realty Group, 105 E. Townline Road, Vernon Hills. For information, call 847-234-9800.

“People who want good schools for their children or smaller units with no maintenance [empty-nesters] and can’t afford a $600,000 townhouse will be looking with interest at Somerset. We have had a lot of inquiries, and sales should take off soon,” Murphy said.

If the newer projects don’t keep him busy, others will. Several of the older projects are history.

“I had 11 lots at the Villas of Hidden Lake in Buffalo Grove, and they are fully sold out. After the first owner went bust at the Whispering Lakes Estates subdivision in Buffalo Grove, we bought the remaining seven lots, and they are all sold,” Murphy said.

Financial hardship by a developer also led Murphy and Icon to Brighton Oaks Estates in Lakewood. “We [Icon] bought the remaining lots, and there were 19. Seven lots are sold, and 12 remain. They are good-sized lots, too, ranging from three-quarters of an acre to 2 acres,” Murphy said.

“The remaining nine lots in Lincolnshire Forest in Lincolnshire were bought after that community went bust. We have started construction on three homes, with another five to follow very shortly. Only one lot remains to be sold,” Murphy said.

Icon and Foxford took over 70 unsold lots in Hawthorn Trails several years ago. Of those, 17 remain to be sold. House and lot packages range from $600,000 to $800,000.

If subdivisions do not consume Murphy’s time, he can spend it on other building projects.

“This year, we will be under contract to build 85 new houses, and 60 of those will end in closings with people moving into them,” Murphy said.

Remodeling projects in 2014 number 35, he added.

For information, call 815-715-2536, 815-444-7400, visit www.icon-group.com or email jennyr@icon-group.com or charliem@icon-group.com.

Twenty-five years ago, Murphy and three partners invented a filtration product for restaurant exhaust systems.

“If grease or oil got onto the roof, that would not only be dangerous but could void the roofing contract as well,” he said.

His company, which opened for business in 1989, had 22 branch offices across the country.

“You can imagine the business as it came from Chile’s, Applebees, Outback Steak House and restaurants like those,” he said.

He and the three partners sold the company in 2000 to Ecolab, a $4 billion environmental company based in St. Paul. He did not reveal the sale price, but acknowledged it was at least in eight figures. The money was enough to let him ease up a bit.

Murphy consulted and coached youth sports for several years, and then, in 2005, he became intrigued with the real estate market. “A guy I met approached me looking for some money, and I became his financial partner,” he said.

Murphy struggled with the partnership. “I am somewhat of a control freak,” he said. “I did not want to invest a lot of my money into something and not have full control over its use.”

Murphy ended up buying out his partner and becoming the owner of Villas in Hidden Lake subdivision.

By 2008, the real estate bug was firmly embedded in his makeup. He opened a new-house construction and old-house remodeling business. At the same time, he kept his eyes out for subdivision investments.

Born on the East Coast, Murphy moved to Naperville in 1972 and took up residence in McHenry County in 1992.

In the early Icon years, the office was in Algonquin. Since then it has moved to Hawthorn Trails.

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