Developer gets another year at Lake and Lathrop

Trustees extend Tim Hague's deal, leave TIF dollars on table

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By Deb Kadin

The firm selected to redevelop the southwest corner of Lake Street and Lathrop Avenue will have another year to cobble together a plan for the property.

River Forest village trustees Monday agreed to extend a commitment that would allow Keystone Ventures to use $1.9 million from the area's dissolved TIF to buy property, clean up the site and offer incentives to bring in tenants.

The original agreement, signed in 2010 with Tim Hague, Keystone Ventures' president and a River Forest resident, was set to expire Dec. 31. As part of that agreement, the money would be set aside in an economic development fund. That deal was struck before the Lake-Lathrop TIF expired in 2010.

If Hague doesn't use the funds, they will be divvied up among local taxing bodies.

Lake and Lathrop is a key component of River Forest's corridor study and will likely be near the top of the agenda of the economic development commission, which is expected to start its work either later this year or early next year.

Redevelopment had stalled there because of a bad real estate market. That appears to be changing and there is renewed interest, Palm said.

The next step will be developing an approach to the property that the market can support and that can justify the acquisition of the properties on the site, Hague said in a telephone interview before Monday's meeting.

What is built there "all depends on what happens with the property acquisition," said Hague, who declined to give specifics.

Renewing the agreement for one year will give him time to come back with some revised proposal, Village President Catherine Adduci said.

"This is the right thing to do given that the economy is stepping up," she said Monday evening.

Hague, in 2010, submitted a proposal to demolish much of the block and build a structure featuring shops on the first floor and condos above. Hague has been trying to buy the multiple parcels that make up the site, but disagreements with the owner of one business, River Forest Cleaners, have prevented a purchase.

River Forest Cleaners is the nucleus of the development area. The site is owned by Ed Ditchfield, who this spring settled a long-standing lawsuit with Forest Park National Bank to dig up and remove contaminated soil on the site of a two-flat owned by the bank.

Other property in that area includes a building owned by Oak Park Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar.

RF's $13M sewer project

River Forest's village staff this week will begin examining proposals from seven engineering firms interested in designing the village's massive multi-million dollar sewer project.

Whichever firm gets the nod to draft detailed plans for the work, those plans will be the documents the village will send out next year to contractors who will submit bids to do the work.

Village Administrator Eric Palm, Public Works Director Phil Cotter and Village Engineer Jeff Loster will evaluate proposals and bring in firms – perhaps all seven – to interview.

Cost will only be one factor the team will look at as it evaluates the different proposals, Palm said.

"This is a contract for professional service. We're not buying a supply," he said. "Price will be an important component, but we'll also look at experience in doing projects and how qualified the staff is in carrying out the project."

A recommendation will go to the village board in December.

Requests for proposals went out the beginning of October. Submissions closed out last week, Palm said.

The overall project would consist of installing a new storm sewer mainline on Greenfield Street to help alleviate basement flooding on the north side of the village. A new sanitary sewer also would be added. The estimated cost is $13 million.

The effort, which has been on the village's radar screen since the 1970s, could well be the largest project of its kind River Forest has ever undertaken.

The design phase will take a year to complete. And then the project has to be approved by a variety of agencies.

"The plans have to be detailed because they have to show how the project will affect the agency potentially," Palm said.

Drawings of the North Side Sewer Project are expected to run seven figures as the entire project will be designed.

Phase 2, which would consist of installing storm sewer laterals north of Greenfield, may not be done. Although some residents lobbied for it, Palm said the village would do Phase 1 and see if that helps solve broader problems.

Another part of the project being contemplated is undertaking similar work on Monroe and Jackson streets between Division and North avenues. That cost would run about $1 million.

Bids aren't expected to go out for the project until November or December 2014, according to a timetable offered by the village. Construction could begin during the spring of 2015; completion is anticipated during the summer of 2016.

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