A group of Chicago investors has purchased property at the northeast corner of Lake Street and Forest Avenue in hopes of developing the site. Although no details have been set for development, they would almost certainly include rebuilding the nearby village-owned parking garage.
The developers, headed by Michael Glazier, have approached the village but have not submitted plans, said Bob Clements, the village’s acting development director. Glazier did not return phone calls.
The property?#34;which includes the corner Original Pancake House space (954 Lake St.), the small retail spaces to the east, and Certifiedland Grocers (940 Lake St.), as well as its parking lot, accessible off Forest Avenue?#34;sold for $9 million, half of which the seller, John Vlahos, is financing, according to county records. The sale date was March 29. Vlahos owns Pan’s Food Center, 820 S. Oak Park Ave.
“You would expect if they paid that much money, they would be back to the village to discuss a proposal,” Clements said. “When they’re ready, they probably will be.”
Redevelopment of the parcel was identified in the Downtown Master Plan led by Portland, Ore.-based Crandall Arambula as a “catalyst” project, ranking fourth among projects needing attention downtown. The firm pegged the site for “anchor retail” and gives general suggestions for ground-floor retail, a rebuilt parking garage and condos or apartments above. Clements said strong retail at that site could help bridge downtown and The Avenue Business District.
“It’s clear the northeast corner [of Forest and Lake] is one of the key sites called out by the Crandall Arabula plan,” said David Pope, village president. “It is a site that has a well-defined presentation of what would be envisioned for that corner.”
A village-owned L-shaped garage surrounds the property and will likely be included in a redevelopment, village officials say. Clements said a study showed the garage was “nearing the end” of its life and that recent repairs were only a Band-Aid. Trustee Robert Milstein said, “That garage is falling apart. It’s safe, but it probably needs a lot more work.”
Clements said the garage is poorly designed, and that the master plan calls for a larger garage?#34;750 spaces?#34;50 percent bigger than the garage planned for North Boulevard in the downtown superblock.
The master plan calls for a structure to match in height the Marshall Field’s (Borders) building at Harlem Avenue and Lake Street. Proposed changes to zoning along Lake Street to limit front facade height to 80 feet (roughly the height of the Field’s building) would affect the corner building, but not the garage property, where zoning limits height to 60 feet.
Development of the property may prove interesting from a planning standpoint, too. The village would likely set aside its new participatory planning process in this instance, trustees said. Participatory planning is reserved for village-owned properties, and the village owns only a portion of the property likely to be considered in this project.
“My preference would always be to take village-owned properties out to RFP [request for proposals],” said Trustee Greg Marsey. But this project, because the developers own the primary portion, is different. “I would be amenable to an unsolicited bid as long as it underwent a participatory planning process before it got to us.”
Milstein agreed that the village’s participatory planning process might not fit with a Forest/Lake project and that common sense and flexibility ought to prevail. Public feedback would be included in any project proposed for the site.
He said, though, that fitting with the Crandall Arambula plan wasn’t a priority for him.
“I would consider it a TIF [Tax Increment Financing] plan more than anything else. It’s a guideline. It’s a blueprint,” Milstein said.