By Megan Dooley
With luck, Village President John Rigas said residents can expect to see some tenant activity in the empty storefronts at River Forest Town Center in the next six months. He said the village is slowly working on plans for other commercial sites around town as well.
Rigas said he, Village Administrator Eric Palm, and River Forest Trustee Susan Conti met with the property manager of the Town Center shopping center, located at the corner of Harlem and Lake, several weeks ago.
"Without naming names, there's good interest in hopefully Linens & Things being split into two parcels," Rigas said. The former Linens & Things space, at upwards of 25,000 square feet, has been a challenge to fill, he added, partly because of the size and partly because of its location in a back corner of the center.
Rigas said there's also interest in the space that formerly housed Talbot's, located inside the same building parcel as the former Linens & Things. Across the street in Town Center I, the Whole Foods building also has an empty storefront. But there isn't as much concern about filling it. "That parcel, the Whole Foods area," he said, "it's got better visibility." They have more confidence that the site will eventually be leased.
The village has set aside dollars to entice tenants to fill those trickier spots. "I think it was a little over $300,000 from TIF [tax increment finance] funds to help attract people," he said. "It would have to be the right tenant, and obviously it would have to be the right reason, but there is some money there."
Rigas also spoke to commercial development in other areas of town, namely along Madison Street. The Hines Lumber property is considered a prime development site.
"The nice thing about Hines is that there really isn't any value in the building or anything on that parcel. It's a big piece of open land with a pretty valueless building," he said. Potential development plans for that site might include retail and office space, along with residential townhomes or condominiums.
Finally, Rigas said the property at the corner of Lake and Lathrop, which will be redeveloped by Tim Hague of Keystone Ventures, has not made any forward progress recently. "We're trying to get in touch with Tim to get that process started sooner versus later," he said.
But Palm said it could be a while. "If something is going to happen this year, which is a maybe, it would happen toward the end of the calendar year," he said, citing the poor economy as a factor stalling the process. "We still plan on working with Mr. Hague, but at the same time we realize that the economy is what it is, and nothing is going to happen relatively quickly."