Boston Market plans RF 'pilot'

BUSINESS IN BRIEF

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Boston Market plans to revamp its River Forest Town Center location into what may be a test-look for the franchise, including a "village market" concept the company is testing.

However, company officials downplayed some aspects of a plan for the store's renovation which were presented recently by its architects in a presentation to village officials.

Representatives from a Park Ridge architecture firm in charge of the renovation presented renderings of the new look and some details about how the restaurant would be transformed into less of a dining environment and more of a to-go shop. Currently take-out business constitutes 60 percent to 65 percent of the restaurant's business, Joe Deflippis, an architect and principal with Chipman Adams Architects wrote in a letter to the Village of River Forest.

"This uniquely re-designed restaurant will mark a dramatic new direction for the Boston Market brand," reads a Boston Market design statement. "The new venue merges a freshly prepared food offering with a newly added retail convenience market component."

Seating will be reduced from 45 to 15. The project would have no impact on parking, Deflippis said.

The company statement said the River Forest location was selected to be "a new pilot/concept restaurant" because its "unique set of dynamics: ?#34; a diverse demographic mix of customers, proximity to other successful retail establishments, access to public transportation, and the value we place on our strong historic relationship with the community of River Forest and with the ownership of the property." Taxman Corp. owns the River Forest Town Center.

But a Boston Market representative reached for comment played down the changes planned for the restaurant. The term "pilot" is "an overstatement," said Phyllis Hammond, Boston Market senior vice president for communications.

"The whole concept is in development," Hammond said.

She said the company was going to make changes in the restaurant, which could then be used on future redesigns of other franchises. Hammond said that differed from a "pilot" concept in that, "We're not looking to totally redesign Boston Market."

Hammond said she wouldn't use the term "retail convenience market," used in the company statement. She said it had not been decided what would be sold at the market.

Deflippis said prepackaged items, including "gravies, sauces, jams and salty snacks," would be sold.

Hammond said she did not know when the details for the project would be nailed down, but that the store would be closed temporarily for renovations, and that it was expected to reopen in August.

Golden, Colo.-based Boston Market employs 14,000 people nationwide and is a wholly owned subsidiary of McDonald's Corp. The company began in Newton, Mass., as Boston Chicken in December 1985.

DTOP parking will drop in summer

Parking available to shoppers, diners and workers visiting Downtown Oak Park this summer will decline, according to parking projections prepared by DTOP.

The data show that the number of spaces per 1,000 square feet of commercial square footage downtown drops from 1.95 in May to 1.74 in October before returning to 2.14 in November, when 350 new garage spots are planned to open.

Parking will dip to 2.04 per 1,000 square feet in 2006, then rise to 2.33 in 2007. Executive Director Donna Ogdon-Chen said the national target for parking is 4 spaces per 1,000 square feet of commercial space.

The business association's calculations include changes that have been planned, such as the Whiteco development and expansion of the Holley Court parking deck, but do not include any parking included in the downtown master plan.

"I think it certainly shows we need more parking," said Ogdon-Chen.

Ogdon-Chen said what's important is not just the number of spaces downtown, but where they are and whether people will use them. She said DTOP will continue to push for long-term solutions to the parking need while working to implement short-term solutions, too, such as valet parking and remote parking for employees or construction workers.

A long-term parking solution was described in the master plan as a deck on North Boulevard.

Marion mall getting cooler

A ice cream shop new to Oak Park is coming to the Marion Street mall.

Cold Stone Creamery plans to open at 134 N. Marion St., in the former Kelly Shoes location.

The owners of the new franchise also own a similar ice cream shop in La Grange, but could not be reached for comment.

Have you seen her?

Illinois State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka sent DTOP Executive Director Donna Ogdon-Chen a note saying she's "a real Oak Park fan" with a copy of a Chicago Tribune article picturing Ogdon-Chen downtown.

It's not the most exposure she'll get this month, though. DTOP's "Thursday Night Out" promotion is being featured this week on "Comcast Newsmakers," which airs on CNN Headline News twice a day this week.

Ogdon-Chen said the broadcasts reach 1.6 million viewers, and the DTOP segment will run more than 40 times.

?#34;Drew Carter

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