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For prospective businesses


Starting a Business in Lake Forest

1.  Lake Forest Business Districts:
East-side Lake Forest
- located in the historic section of Lake Forest, the east side features historic Market Square on Western Avenue, stretching from the south end CVS plaza to the northend with specialized shops.  
West-side Lake Forest - located on both sides of Waukegan Road, featuring Sunset Plaza and Forest Square Plaza. 

2.  City Business Assistance:
The City of Lake Forest offers personalized service through the Office of Economic Development and the Office of Community Development. 

3.  Lake Forest is a Special Place:
Located 30 miles north of Chicago, Lake Forest is home to 20,000 residents, 7,000 households with an average income of $218,000 and $800,000 home value.  Over 20 corporate headquarters call Lake Forest their home, including the Chicago Bears, Trustmark, Hospira, Brunswick, Tennaco, Pactiv and others.  Easy access to I-94, O'Hare Airport, Executive Airport and Milwaukee International Airport, Lake Forest is convenient for your business and your customers.  Lake Forest is a triple A (AAA) bond-rated city, ensuring your investment is respected.

4. Community Development forms to complete prior to opening a business:
Before you sign your lease, please confirm your businesses is in the proper zoning.  In addition, you will need to complete a Certificate of Occupancy prior to opening your business.  For more information, contact the City of Lake Forest Department of Community Development.   Lake Forest does NOT require a business license.

5.  Home-based businesses:   New city ordinances will be updated here shortly.


The City of Lake Forest welcomes your interest in locating your business in Lake Forest. The following information will provide you with an introduction to opening a business in our community.   For personalized assistance, please contact our Economic Development Officer, Susan Kelsey at or 847.613.7005.


How can I learn more about the Downtown Lake Forest market? Market data is available under Community Profile from the Office of Economic Development. Market research was completed in 2008. For a complete copy, contact the Economic Development office at 847.810.3681.

Where can I find Store Space? Available space is located on this website, in addition, please contact the Economic Development office for additional upcoming space.


What do I need to know about zoning? Lake Forest has special zoning requirements designed to preserve the character of downtown. The zoning includes a rule that limits the number of service businesses to no more than 10% of each block face with in the downtown core. We can provide you with a zoning map. Do not sign a lease until you have received City approval for your proposed use.


How do I get City approval for my Business? The City of Lake Forest does not require a business license, however, City approval verifying zoning conformance is required. All City approvals begin with "one-stop shopping" at the main desk of the Public Works/Municipal Services Building, 800 N. Field Drive. A brief letter outlining the specific nature and proposed location of your business may be delivered to the main desk. The Director of Community Development will review your letter and, within two weeks, you will receive a written response indicating whether you can proceed as you proposed or if you need to obtain a special use permit.


Are other City Approvals needed? Yes, there are two. First, if remodeling is involved, either you or your landlord will need a building permit. Secondly, Lake Forest's strictly enforces signage standards that require design approval. You can obtain more information from Municipal Services Building, 800 N. Field Drive, or you may contact us at 847.234.2600 for further assistance.

We look forward to working with you.

220 E. Deerpath, Lake Forest, IL 60045
(847) 234-2600
Non-Emergency Police:  (847) 234-2601

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