A Chicago firm familiar with River Forest’s economic development issues will assess what kinds of businesses would work best in the Tax Increment Finance districts being created on Madison Street and North Avenue.

Trustees on Feb. 23 awarded Houseal Lavigne a contract to prepare the market demand analysis at a cost not to exceed $20,450. The firm previously crafted the village’s comprehensive plan and its 2010 Corridor Study, which serves as a blueprint for redevelopment on North Avenue, Madison Street and Lake Street.

Two other firms submitted requests for proposal to do the work; one had withdrawn this winter, Village Administrator Eric Palm said. Work is expected to start in the next couple of weeks though the study won’t be ready until the summer, Palm said.

In its report, Houseal Lavigne will examine a broad array of statistical information — from within a 5-mile radius of River Forest, including census information, average income of residents, amount of disposable income, and the needs of the area. 

That data will be used to assess if residential, retail or commercial uses will be viable in the TIFs. That information will be useful as the village drafts a strategy to market the sites to prospective developers, Palm said.

TIFs are tools, sometimes controversial, for municipal governments to jump-start new retail, commercial and residential development. In the case of River Forest, the plan is to use the newly crafted TIFs to implement recommendations of the corridor study. But to do that, there must be an assessment of what the market will bear within the targeted corridors, Palm said.

“We want to be sure that expectations and reality (of what can be developed) meet up,” Palm told trustees Monday night.

Creation of the TIFS, which are slated to be established this summer, is high on the village’s agenda as it looks to diversity its revenue stream. Another development priority will be taken up at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 4, as the Economic Development Commission interviews three firms which want to develop on two village-owned parcels on and near the southeast corner Lake Street and Park Avenue.

Fully-developed plans will be unveiled by Centrum Partners/Pine Grove Partners and Keystone Ventures/Inland Real Estate, both of which want to turn the site into a retail/residential development. Pathways Senior Living is presenting the third proposal, which would turn the site into an assisted living facility.

One of the parcels is the site of a former gas station and measures approximately 70 by 100 feet, with 70 feet of frontage along Lake Street and 100 feet of frontage along Park. A second parcel, approximately 50 feet to the south, is 50 by 145 feet. A third parcel is situated between the two, and there had been some willingness to consider this property in a coordinated redevelopment of the sites, according to an RFP for development of the area put out in 2011.

Two RFPs were sent out but the response was underwhelming, Palm said.

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