Couple planting seeds for a green inn
Track Catherine McQueen’s and Fritz Kreiss’ progress as they develop The Green Leaf Inn in Delavan Township at www.greeningtheinn.com.
DELAVAN TOWNSHIP Catherine McQueen and Fritz Kreiss are seeing green.
The couple plan to transform their secluded 5 acres at N5072 Highway 50 into The Green Leaf Inn, a 19-suite bed and breakfast with a focus on sustainability.
“We’re redefining the perception of what green living will be,” Kreiss said. “We want to show people they can live without having to change their lifestyle—but do it in a way that’s sustainable.”
The couple says the bed and breakfast will maintain the highest standards for sustainable building, renewable energy and use of land and resources while providing guests with a luxurious experience.
McQueen, 50, and Kreiss, 55, moved in 1998 from their one-bedroom condominium in Evanston, Ill., into their four-bedroom home in Delavan Township. They remodeled it over several years, adding an addition with a loft, energy-efficient appliances and raised garden beds, among other improvements.
A few years later, the couple learned the state Department of Transportation is exploring the possibility of expanding Highway 50 to four lanes to accommodate increased traffic along a 5-mile stretch from Interstate 43 to Highway 67.
Their dreams of the quiet life were crushed.
“We wanted to have this as our little piece of paradise,” McQueen said. “But just as soon as you make plans like that, things change. And when you get kicked in the gut, you’ve just gotta dust yourself off and stand up and start again.”
The couple needed another plan—and flipping the property into something mostly commercial rather than strictly residential seemed to fit the bill, they said.
But what sort of business would an energy consultant and an artist develop together that would not only make money but also make them happy?
They learned the answer after months of soul searching, tossing around ideas and researching options.
They figured a bed and breakfast would provide McQueen the creative outlet she missed and incorporating green technology would allow Kreiss to flex his energy-consulting muscles.
McQueen and Kreiss want to immerse the community in the possibilities of green living—from the early development stages, through the construction and into the day-to-day operation of The Green Leaf Inn.
“We want to stuff this place as much as we can,” McQueen said of the couple’s plans implement as many green concepts—from a solar photovoltaic system to generate electricity to a cistern to capture rainwater for reuse to using towels and sheets made from bamboo.
The plan calls for three buildings on the property:
-- A welcome center will house the reception desk, bathrooms, a small conference center and displays about the energy systems, building materials and sustainable practices used on site.
-- A main suite building will house 16 Jacuzzi suites.
-- A secondary suite building will house three Jacuzzi suites, including an upstairs honeymoon suite, along with living and dining space.
Kreiss said nightly rates will be about $250.
The welcome center and main suite building will be purpose-built structures, while the secondary suite building—which is the couple’s existing home—will be remodeled.
The couple believe the inn will be the first purpose-built green building in the Midwest.
Although they’re pushing the green thing, McQueen and Kreiss ultimately are aiming to create a “romantic getaway” for couples. Visitors can learn as much or as little as they wish about green living while staying at the inn, they said.
The couple are starting to collect permits from the town of Delavan. Pending final approval, they hope to break ground in late summer or early fall and open in the summer of 2010.
McQueen and Kreiss have developed a slogan that perhaps best sums up their philosophy as they move forward on the project: “Growing the grassroots of a green revolution in America, planting the seeds right here in the Midwest.”
Catherine McQueen and Fritz Kreiss have learned that when it comes to making dreams a reality, there’s a lot of work involved.
But the couple, who are proposing to build a “green” bed and breakfast on their property at N5072 Highway 50 in Delavan Township, also are learning that it’s worth the headaches, heartaches and long hours.
“Each day I see the immense amount of things needed to be done for our project to become reality, and I wish I had begun the preparation and research years ago,” McQueen writes in her blog at www.greeningtheinn.com, the Web site where the couple are tracking their progress on the project. “But years ago we didn’t know we were going to build a bed and breakfast on our property—and a green, sustainable one at that.”
When the couple decided they wanted to combine their expertise in energy consulting and artistry, they were just getting started.
“After all those conversations, we realized we were just scratching the surface as to what the whole effort was going to be,” Kreiss said.
Obtaining the appropriate approvals from the town of Delavan has been daunting, the couple said.
“Nothing’s been simple,” McQueen said. “It’s all been fascinating, but it’s definitely been a learning experience.
“At times, it felt like everyone had this list of rules, but they weren’t telling us what they were, and we were trying to guess what we had to do next.”
That has meant the couple has changed their plans several times already—and they haven’t even made a final submission to the Town of Delavan Plan Commission.
McQueen and Kreiss started by meeting with town planners and engineers to get feedback on their proposal so that when it comes time to make the formal submission, they’ve got their bases covered.
Town officials were skeptical at first: A green inn just seemed too good to be true, and they asked the couple if they had backup plans.
“We understand that concern,” McQueen said. “It’s a big learning curve, I think, for all the different people involved. The energy systems, sustainable building practices—they’re all so new.”
Overall, town officials have been receptive, Kreiss said.
The couple know this is just the beginning—and they hope that as they muddle their way through the approval process, others can learn from their endeavor.
“We know we’re a lightning rod for change, and we’re willing to do that.”