It’s too early to say what specific stores and restaurants might fill the bottom two floors of the new hotel planned at Lake and Forest. But a study, presented by the developer last week, offers some insights into what shopping spots might go into the corner that was once home to the Original Pancake House and Certifiedland Grocers.

At an Oak Park Plan Commission hearing last week, the developer looking to build a 20-story hotel at the corner showed a retail study including suggested retail uses. Sertus Capital Partners presented the study as part of the requirements of applying for approval of the project.

For the ground floor of the building, the study suggests a full-service restaurant to serve hotel guests as well as a fast-food restaurant. Also listed were retailers focused on fashion, furniture, office supplies and possibly a salon and spa.

Suggested types of business for the second floor of retail include another full-service restaurant to take advantage of “spectacular” views of Lake Street, along with a possible gym, medical offices, salon, art gallery or a physical therapy office. The second level will be geared more toward service-type businesses because it will be less visible.

Commissioners stressed the importance of bringing good retail to the space and not making it an “afterthought.”

“To me, the purpose of the downtown is retail,” said Commissioner Gary Belenke. “I want to go shopping, and I want to go shopping in my community, and downtown should have those kinds of retail that I can’t find anywhere else.”

Sertus Principal Michael Glazier disputed the notion that little thought was put into the retail portion of the project. He believes that filling the 28,000 square feet of space over the two floors will be the easier part because of the development’s location.

Glazier says his company chose not to provide letters of interest from specific retailers because they’re “not worth the paper they’re printed on.” He also said that it’s unlikely that Sertus will fill gigantic chunks of space with one retailer, for worry that a tenant might fail and leave a gaping empty hole-citing the collapses of Circuit City and Linens ‘n Things.

“It creates a big hole in an otherwise viable strip,” Glazier said.

Linda Bolte, chair of the plan commission, also urged Sertus to strengthen the non-dining portions of the retail space.

“One thing we seem to be doing well in Oak Park is restaurants,” she said.

The meeting last week also included a presentation from another consultant, claiming that the development will not adversely affect property values, along with a presentation from resident Kevin Murphy challenging parking-demand estimates for the building.

The plan commission is scheduled to continue meeting on the Lake and Forest proposal on Dec. 17, with a possible start of public testimony on the project.

-Marty Stempniak

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