Two significant economic development objectives made major progress Monday as River Forest village trustees, in separate votes, started the process of creating Tax Increment Finance (TIF) districts and sent a plan for a townhome development on the long-vacant Hines Lumber site to a commission for further review.

In expressing the village’s intent to provide tax incentives to redevelop property on Madison Street and North Avenue, trustees set the borders and authorized updating the TIF eligibility report. To assess what kind of development could take place, an economic analysis will be conducted.  A contract authorizing Kane, McKenna, a consulting firm, to perform both studies will go to the board for approval on Jan. 26.

Reports, which could be ready this spring, along with information gathered from other sources, including public hearings, all will be required to formally create the TIFs. Approval could come in August at the earliest. 

TIFs would be a tool in the village’s toolbox to jump-start new retail, commercial and residential development and an important way to implement recommendations from the 2010 Corridor Study, village officials said. The Economic Development Commission started studying the TIF process last year; trustees authorized the effort along the way. 

Village President Catherine Adduci said in an interview that she was ecstatic about the progress represented in the two efforts. 

“This will give us the tools and the process to let developers know we’re interested in redeveloping our corridors. It’s pretty well accepted that Madison and North can use some sprucing up. Marketing tells us we need it, the economic analysis will tell us what we might bring to River Forest,” said Adduci.

The TIF on Madison will stretch from Thatcher Avenue on the west to Lathrop Avenue on the east. This includes the Hines property; the Civic Center Authority building, which houses the Community Center; Good Earth Greenhouse & Café and a number of small businesses and multi-family buildings. While an effort to redevelop Hines will be assessed by the Development Review Board this winter, the project might not be TIF-eligible because the district has not yet been created, Village Administrator Eric Palm said. 

North Avenue’s TIF will be from Thatcher east to Harlem Avenue. Fresh Thyme Farmers Market site will not be eligible for TIF funds. Financial incentives granted by Cook County will allow the Phoenix-based chain to recoup up to $1 million in property taxes to renovate the site.

North also includes a number of small businesses plus apartments and condominiums. But that doesn’t mean any of the residential buildings will come down any time soon, Palm said. 

River Forest’s sole TIF took in an area along Lake Street from Harlem on the east to Thatcher on the west. Town Center 1 and 2 and village hall were built as part of that. That TIF closed in 2010. 

On Madison, the more than 1.7-acre Hines Lumber site, 7820 W. Madison St., had been a prime spot for redevelopment since 2009 when the store closed during the economic downturn. 

The project under review will consist of 29 three-bedroom units averaging around 2,000 square feet each. End units will be bigger, said John Schiess, an architect who will be overseeing the project through the DRB process and who’s been in discussions with the village for several months about it. 

Each unit will have four parking spaces – two for residents and two for guests. A green promenade will be created down the middle, and 37 percent of the total area of the project will be green space, Schiess said. The village government’s public works garage, which is situated north of the site, will not be included in this project, said Alex Zdanov, president of Interforum Holdings of Northfield, the project’s developer. 

Sale prices will be from $525,000 to $600,000 per unit, Schiess said. The market for them will be young professionals who cannot afford expensive homes in River Forest, although several trustees expressed the thought that units should be created for empty-nesters. 

Sale of the property will be subject to approval of the project, Zdanov said. Construction could start this summer and take 18 months to complete, he said. 

Several prospective deals to redevelopment the site as residential units as well as an ice rink had failed over the years.

Three proposals were brought forward in 2013 and 2014. In June 2013, Thomas Cronin looked to build a 65,000-square-foot practice sports facility, which would have encompassed the Hines site and the site of the public works garage. The project never got to the DRB for review.

A few months later, Rob Palley’s Granite Development proposed building 10 townhouses on the property, but it never made it to the DRB, although trustees gave it the go-ahead. In early 2014, Palley told Wednesday Journal he was considering another residential development for the site; it was never brought to trustees.

Join the discussion on social media!