River Forest narrows Lake & Park developers to 2

Both have proposed mixed commercial-residential projects for the site

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By Nona Tepper

River Forest officials narrowed the pool to two preferred developers for the southeast corner of Lake Street and Park Avenue, where development has been stalled for three years.

Trustees voted unanimously at a village board meeting on Feb. 12 to seek full proposals from developers IBT/Walsh, the investment arm of the Chicago-based Walsh Construction, and the Chicago-based Focus Development. Both have proposed a mixed commercial-residential development for the area that would generate property tax revenue for the village.

"It's going to be hard to choose," Trustee Susan Conti said at a village board meeting on Feb. 12.

Last spring, the village created a work group comprising two village trustees, two members of the Economic Development Commission and consultants Ehlers and Associates to look for developers for the site.

In November 2017, the village issued a request for proposals at the corner, which consists of a village-owned parking lot and vacant lot. A third property, 7777 W. Lake St., is owned by Oak Parker Jack Strand, who has previously expressed a willingness to include his property in a coordinated redevelopment of the site.

After issuing the RFP, the village received three proposals, one from IBT/Walsh, another from Focus Development and another from a nonprofit the village did not name. The work group conducted interviews and "within five minutes of our second interview, we knew what we wanted," said Bob O'Connell, chairman of the Economic Development Commission.

Going forward, IBT/Walsh and Focus Development must meet with Strand to make sure he's open to developing the site. If he approves, developers must then present a finished proposal to the village.

The developers' proposals come after years of failed development attempts at the site. In October 2015, Keystone Ventures and the village entered into negotiations for a redevelopment agreement. Keystone proposed a mixed-use development for the site that would have included up to 16,000 square feet of retail space and 35 residential units. Village Administrator Eric Palm said no agreement was ever reached between the village and Keystone.

CONTACT: ntepper@wjinc.com

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