Mike Gibbs

Although choosing a plan for Lake Street and Park Avenue in River Forest has been on the table for months, River Forest trustees still want more information before deciding on the firm they will negotiate to develop the village-owned site.

So much more information that during a committee of the whole meeting called for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 26, that village trustees will get presentations from the three prospective developers — Centrum Partners/Pine Grove Partners, Keystone Ventures and Pathways Senior Living — who brought their concepts forward to the Economic Development Commission back in March. 

Centrum would like to construct a high-end apartment building with ground-floor retail. Keystone, owned by local developer Tim Hague, offered a multi-use building with condominiums and retail. Pathways proposed an assisted living facility. 

Mounds of material, including questions posed by trustees and residents and information from all three developers, has been brought forward since the EDC began studying the best use for the land at Lake and Park earlier this year.

Still, Trustee Susan Conti would like to learn about the projects “with fresh eyes and a different perspective, ask questions and clarify information.”

Trustee Mike Gibbs said he needed a lot more information. 

“I’m especially interested in finding out why the assisted living facility went away before it got to us,” Gibbs said. “I think the EDC presented information that was filtered.” 

After three meetings, in which the proposals were under review, the EDC in early May recommended choosing Centrum as the preferred developer. About a week later, trustees balked at taking a vote after hearing residents’ concerns over parking, traffic and the impact on nearby Lincoln Elementary School. 

The EDC re-affirmed its recommendation on Aug. 19, and now must await how trustees will proceed and whether the panel will be involved in the next phase of the process. 

Commissioners seemed to indicate it might be appropriate for trustees to address residents’ concerns. A decision on a preferred developer could come sometime this fall.

Keystone Ventures offered two different schemes. One would offer 16,000 square feet of commercial leasable space on the ground floor, with 34 condominiums on four upper floors. The second would provide 12,000 square feet of commercial space, 28 condominiums on four upper floors and seven townhouses.

A concept, offered by Pathways Senior Living, proposed constructing a senior-assisted living facility. The EDC rejected it, not because they felt that type of development wasn’t needed, but because it was not an appropriate fit for the location. 

Transit-oriented development was best suited for the area, commissioners said, which was one of the reasons they opted for Centrum’s plan, which consisted of a six-story building with 80 one-bedroom and two-bedroom upscale apartments and about 2,650 square feet of retail space. 

Commissioners also believed that it offers housing that is currently not available in River Forest: a rental development that would allow people who were not ready to buy to get a feel for the community and provide an outlet for empty-nesters who want to stay in the village and not have to take on ownership.

EDC member Collette English Dixon, who is in real estate development, pointed to Central Station, an 80-unit rental project in downtown Evanston, which was principally constructed to attract doctors and nurses who work at a nearby hospital. Project developers were amazed that the tenants are predominately baby boomers who want to continue to live in the city. 

“It doesn’t have a lot of amenities, it has nice units. It’s an interesting demographic,” she said.

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