Prairie Crossing

Prairie Crossing is a nationally recognized master-planned conservation community in Grayslake, and one of the first modern developments in the country planned with a working organic farm. The initial vision for the Prairie Crossing community was generated by a group of neighboring landowners committed to the conservation of the rural character of the area east of Prairie Crossing, which included wetlands, woods, rolling farmland, and farmhouses. The area became known as the Liberty Prairie Reserve.


PC_editedAfter lengthy lawsuits against a very dense proposed development on the Prairie Crossing site were settled, conservationists Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley bought the property that would later become Prairie Crossing in 1987.

The Donnelleys formed Prairie Holdings Corporation with a group of neighbors and asked George and Victoria Post Ranney to develop the land, hoping to provide an alternative to the prevailing pattern of suburban sprawl.

The Ranneys assembled a planning team in 1992 and built less than a quarter of the 1,600 units allowed by local zoning, while preserving 60% of the site as open land. One hundred acres of this land were reserved for the Prairie Crossing Farm.

The Prairie Crossing master plan includes 360 Midwest vernacular homes; large areas of restored prairie; an environmentally-focused charter school and community center; a mixed-use town center with 36 condominiums, shops and a restaurant next to two commuter rail stations; and a 100-acre certified organic farm. Prairie Crossing has been a leader in the conservation development movement and was one of the first planned developments in America to incorporate food production.

Guiding Principles

PC GUIDING PRIN 2_editedTen important principles established by the community’s founders have guided Prairie Crossing since its inception. Together, these Guiding Principles provide the framework for a way of life that respects the environment and enables residents to experience a strong connection between community and the land.

  1. Environmental protection and enhancement
  2. A healthy lifestyle
  3. A sense of place
  4. A sense of community
  5. Economic and racial diversity
  6. Convenient and efficient transportation
  7. Energy conservation
  8. Lifelong learning and education
  9. Aesthetic design and high-quality construction
  10. Economic viability

Click here to learn more about the Prairie Crossing Guiding Principles.

Unique Environmental Features

PC ENVIRON FEATURES_editedPrairie Crossing was developed with less than a quarter of the 1,600 units allowed by local zoning, with more than 60% of the site preserved as open space.

The land, which had been farmed for corn and soybeans prior to development, was replanted to the original native prairie and wetland plant species that covered the Midwest prior to nineteenth century cultivation. Native landscaping at Prairie Crossing is one of its defining features.

Through careful planning by an expert ecological team from Applied Ecological Services and the Prairie Crossing environmental team, Prairie Crossing achieved an innovative solution for stormwater management and simultaneously created an attractive habitat for wildlife and an amenity for the residents. The stormwater collection system uses long-rooted native prairie plants to slow and purify rainwater and snowmelt on their way to the large centrally located Lake Aldo Leopold. This lake not only serves as a detention basin; it is also a popular amenity used by residents for swimming, boating, fishing and skating. Click here for a case study of the Prairie Crossing stormwater project, prepared by Applied Ecological Services.

One hundred acres of this land was reserved for the Prairie Crossing Farm, a working organic farm which is protected by a conservation easement. The original budget for farm operations was included as part of the marketing expense of the residential development. These funds helped to operate the farm from start-up through the development’s build-out.  Subsequently, ownership of the Prairie Crossing Farm was donated by Prairie Holdings Corporation to the Liberty Prairie Foundation, a 503(c)(3) private operating foundation.

Prairie Crossing Today

PC TODAY_editedPrairie Crossing is a vibrant community that is governed by the Prairie Crossing Homeowners Association, and managed by a professional management company.

The Liberty Prairie Foundation remains active within the Prairie Crossing community, and owns several facilities within the neighborhood, including the Prairie Crossing Farm and Byron Colby Barn, as well as undeveloped open space and commercial land.

Prairie Crossing was one of the first master planned developments in the United States to include a working farm, and remains a flagship project for conservation and innovative stormwater practices. The Foundation often provides tours and advice to planners, developers, architects, engineers, government officials, and students, who are interested in a proven model for sustainable community development. Click on the Virtual Tour tab to learn more about Prairie Crossing.

The Foundation maintains strong ties with the Prairie Crossing neighborhood and serves as its environmental manager per a contractual agreement with the Prairie Crossing Homeowners Association. The Foundation also serves the community through a Farm Services Agreement with the Prairie Crossing Homeowners Association.

The Liberty Prairie Foundation does not sell homes in Prairie Crossing. We invite you to learn about the Prairie Crossing community, and contact your local realtor. We hope you find your new home in Prairie Crossing, the nationally-recognized conservation community. Visit the Prairie Crossing and Prairie Crossing Homeowners Association websites, and “Like” the Prairie Crossing community on Facebook for more information about the Prairie Crossing community, and upcoming public events.

Virtual Tour

Learn more about Prairie Crossing by joining us on a virtual tour. Click here to access the Prairie Crossing community virtual tour, “visit” different areas of the conservation community, and learn about the unique environmental features. This virtual tour includes unique and in-depth information about the Prairie Crossing conservation community that is useful for developers, students, residents, and others interested in learning about the overall Prairie Crossing community. Guided tours of the Prairie Crossing community are not currently available but the virtual tour enables self-guided tours, either virtually or in person.

To navigate the virtual tour of the Prairie Crossing community, click on the numbered points of interest on the map to see a photo and a brief description. Scroll to read each photo’s description, then click on the down arrow above the text to view the photo. Click here to access the virtual tour of the Prairie Crossing community.