River Forest is going back to square one to redevelop its property at Lake and Park, dropping Keystone Ventures as the preferred developer and looking for another firm that can get the long-stalled project off the ground.
Nearly 18 months after trustees selected Tim Hague's Keystone Ventures to put together a proposal for the project, trustees unanimously directed staff to put selection of a new preferred developer on a fast track for approval by July.
A consultant will be brought on board next month to bring new perspective to the process and help staff and the Economic Development Commission construct a more thorough request for proposal than one issued in October 2014. That document resulted in three proposals, one of which was from locally-owned Keystone.
Approval of that RFP is due by late April; submissions are expected back in late May. The EDC's recommendation for a preferred is due in June. Selection is expected in July, according to a timeline provided by the village.
With discussion of the triennial reassessment as a backdrop, Village President Catherine Adduci reiterated to trustees that "developing Lake and Park is one of the best ways of stabilizing property taxes and lowering our tax rate."
Added Village Administrator Eric Palm, "there's a lot of development going on around River Forest. We won't have the development that another town is having, but it will be suitable and appropriate for our community. The only way to add value to the assessed valuation is creating economic development opportunities."
Development of Lake and Park has been one of the village's most important economic priorities for years. Nothing has happened since October 2014 when the village charged the EDC with crafting a request for proposal.
In a public meeting in March 2015, the EDC vetted three ideas. One was Keystone. Another was offered by Pathways Senior Living which proposed constructing a senior-assisted living facility. The EDC rejected it, not because they felt that type of development wasn't needed, but because it was not an appropriate fit for the location.
In May 2016, the EDC unanimously recommended Pine Grove Centrum Partners proposal to develop luxury rentals, because it fulfilled the desire for transit-oriented development on that site and it was a type of housing that was not available in River Forest. Residents vociferously objected because they didn't want a multi-unit luxury rental building close to a school, citing traffic, parking and other concerns.
The process stopped and started again, and in October 2015, after many meetings and hours of debate over several months, trustees gave Hague the nod to come up with a planned development application for his concept of condominiums/townhomes/retail.
A deadline for Hague to submit his application was March 2016; that was extended until June. There was no agreement drafted and signed between the village and Keystone to develop the site, Palm said.
A letter informing Hague about the board's direction is expected to go out fairly soon. He could not be reached for comment.
Centrum and Pathways also will be asked if they may be interested in submitting another proposal, Palm said.
This will be the third time the village has sought proposals to develop the property, which was purchased with dollars from the Central Business District TIF District.
In 2011, the village unsuccessfully attempted to attract a developer. Because the economy had tanked around that time, the response they got was underwhelming, village officials said.
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