While pegging the Dominick's site on North Avenue as the best option for development, River Forest's newly-formed Economic Development Commission is studying all facets of its economic landscape to gauge opportunities, its chairman said this week.
"We are on a steep learning curve; we are learning as much as we can about the development issues here," said Tom Hazinski, head of the commission launched to serve as a catalyst to local development.
Members of the seven-person commission will find out about the economic climate in River Forest and all of the options available to encourage development. They'll examine retail and restaurant potential and how well the market is currently served by various land uses.
Discussions will take place to see if there are any opportunities to collaborate on beautification and similar projects. Commissioners also will examine data from the 2010 corridor study to get an understanding of the area economy and what could work with respect to various land uses.
Commissioners also will have to learn the pitfalls of development here – from the lack of parking to the shallow lot depths – and the prospective incentives that could be offered to developers.
After the commission's second meeting "everything's on the table" in driving new ideas on development and negotiation, Village President Catherine Adduci said. That includes putting together parcels that could become sites for redevelopment.
The soon-to-be-vacant Dominick's site presents the best opportunity for redevelopment. More options will be available and there will be adequate associated parking. The store, on a 2-acre site with 380 feet of frontage on North Avenue, is among the chain's oldest and smallest locations and will close later this year. Dominick's has leased the location and does not own the property. As of yet no other supermarkets have come forward to offer to buy the site.
"We have to learn more about the current ownership and speak with them," Hazinski said. "We are extremely interested in what happens with the site and want to be proactive about what happens there."
Another possibility for redevelopment is on land at the southeast corner of Park and Lake, where River Forest owns two parcels. One, of 7,080 square-feet, next to Community Bank, is mostly used for municipal parking. The second is a 7,341-square-foot vacant lot that sits directly across from village hall. A third parcel in between the two is privately owned.
A third area that could be examined would be a two-block section of Madison Street, but there parcels would have to be combined to make for a decent-sized development.
Harlem Avenue would be a challenge because, except for the Town Center, a gas station at Chicago Avenue and a McDonald's at Oak Street; the street is residential and institutional.
Prospects are still open at Lake and Lathrop, where Keystone Ventures has another year to cobble together a plan for the property. The commitment would allow the firm to use $1.9 million from the area's dissolved TIF to buy property, undertake environmental remediation of the site and offer incentives to bring in tenants.
Hazinski said as of yet the village has not asked for the EDC's involvement on that project.
Any and all efforts recommended by the EDC would have to go the board for approval, Village Administrator Eric Palm said.
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