By Nona Tepper
The River Forest Village Board voted 4-1 at a regular meeting on Sept. 17 to approve the Lake and Lathrop planned development, altering slightly the five-story mixed-use development.
"I believe it's the board's responsibility and my responsibility to solve our problems in the community and to have a real crisp, clear vision of what our community should look like in the next 50 years. We take great pains in trying to create guiding principles," Village President Cathy Adduci said, naming the village's priorities as fire and safety, increasing property values and stabilizing River Forest's property taxes.
"We take these core values really seriously. When we sit around the table, when we talk about opportunities that come before us, it's not like we just pop up and say,
'Let's make this decision on no knowledge'…There's some work that we need to do with the developers, but I don't believe it should stop this development," she said.
The majority of trustees approved Lake and Lathrop LLC's planned development at Monday's meeting, on the conditions that the village board approve an environmental remediation plan prior to issuing a demolition permit; any change to the application—including building materials, height, rooftop decks—be approved by the trustees; the developer add at least 10 commercial parking spaces either to the development or lease them nearby, bringing the total number of commercial spaces to 30; the River Forest Traffic and Safety Commission review traffic patterns in the area and recommend how to make it safe; and that the developer work with the village to fund the movement of three existing businesses on the site elsewhere in River Forest.
The village has been discussing using funds from the Madison Street Tax Increment Financing District to help move The Skincare Company, Allstate and In & Out Fitness elsewhere in the village.
"Our expectations are high, we've been wanting this as a board for nine years," Trustee Susan Conti said. "I think a place where residents can walk, shop, pick up a cup of coffee, maybe have lunch or breakfast or something, or go to a couple of stores. It should be a magnet for the community to enjoy, that's the hope for this."
Lake and Lathrop LLC, comprising Sedgwick Development and Keystone Ventures, plans to build a five-story mixed use building at the southwest corner of Lake Street and Lathrop Avenue. The plan is to have parking and commercial space on the ground floor -- which they're hoping a restaurant, retail shops and a bank branch would fill -- topped by four floors that would include 30 mostly three- and four-bedroom condos. Six private rooftop decks accessible by elevator and stairs will top the structure.
Corey Robertson, director of development services at Jameson Sotheby's International Realty, which is marketing the property, said he already has a list of more than 200 names of people interested in the property. He said the majority of those names are residents of Oak Park and River Forest.
"The interest level for this product in River Forest is five, six, seven times what we saw over at District House" in Oak Park, Robertson said, adding that Lake and Lathrop LLC has not sold any units yet.
But during the public comment portion of the meeting, several residents again voiced their concerns over the project's height, design and impact on traffic, with many worrying over the precedent the village was setting by accepting so many site development allowances.
"Once you approve something this size and character, there's no reason someone else won't do the same," resident Cindy Kronquist said at the meeting.
"For this many residents to keep voicing their opposition to the development, and for that proposal to be advanced this far has me concerned," she added.
Trustee Tom Cargie called Lake and Lathrop's development process "troubled" since developers didn't mention the rooftop decks until the last day, had no plan yet for environmental remediation of the site and questioned developers' plan for garbage collection and building design.
"I'm troubled by the height, I'm troubled by the density, but I can't say my opinion that it's too tall and too dense is considerably more appropriate than the considered opinion of the Development Review Board," he said.
In late August, the majority of Development Review Board members voted in favor of Lake and Lathrop's proposal.
Trustee Patty Henek likewise said she was concerned about the building's height and mass, and also felt that developers hadn't been responsive to community concerns.
"I get we can't have 50 million opinions and move a project along, but I do think you have to take in enough different perspectives, and get to enough different aspects, to get the best plan for the most people," Henek said.
Henek voted against the project; Adduci, Cargie, Conti and Michael Gibbs voted for the project. Trustee Carmela Corsini was absent, and Respicio Vazquez recused himself.
Answer Book 2018
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