When 40 River Forest residents turn up to protest at a hastily called municipal meeting at 7:30 on a Friday morning, you know something has gotten out of whack, or at least out of order. The residents were frustrated, it seems, by the perceived speed at which the village government was moving to approve a residential and commercial developer for a prime piece of village-owned land at Lake Street and Park Avenue.

To its credit, the village board had already slowed the approval process, having removed the OK of a developer from its own agenda last Monday. The board referred the matter back to the EDC — the appointed Economic Development Commission — which held the Friday morning gathering. 

There is good thinking in the initial recommendation of the EDC for construction of a six-story, 80-unit apartment building with a small amount of ground floor retail. We understand the rationale that the talented crew of EDC volunteers had used in making the recommendation. At a moment when other new projects in town are focused on condos and townhomes, an apartment complex might be a good alternative. With a focus on one- and two-bedroom apartments, such a project would also fill another hole in the local real estate market for younger people looking for entry into the village. 

Those ideas make sense to us. And we agree that River Forest needs more varied housing options. Is 80 units too dense? Perhaps a bit. But adding some level of density to housing along Lake Street is logical. And, based on our observation of the construction of high-end rentals in other communities, we think concerns about the schools being swamped with kids out of this single building are overblown.

Elected officials had no choice but to slow down this process. There is more discussion necessary, more conversation with neighbors required. But let’s not allow this to get derailed entirely. This is a site assembled by the village for residential development, for property tax enhancement. This is a site that can absorb somewhat more density than other River Forest locations. And, let’s not forget or get all shaky in the knees, that these are the sort of projects the EDC was crafted to steer. 

Slow down. Listen. Potentially adapt a bit. And then build something good.  

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