One business district has been created and a second will be established later this month as River Forest looks at options and flexibility in boosting economic development along Lake Street.
Trustees recently approved formation of Business District East, which will include commercial property along Lake Street from Ashland east to Lathrop and a couple of properties adjacent in the rear.
A public hearing will be conducted Sept. 28 as a step toward creation of Business District West, which will stretch from Ashland Avenue west to Park Avenue.
With the creation of the business districts, Village President Catherine Adduci said she envisions that Lake from Harlem Avenue west to Park Avenue will become River Forest’s downtown.
One of her goals when she ran for village president more than two years was to create a town center with a vibrancy that will match LaGrange and Western Springs.
“New vibrant businesses and existing businesses, high-end residential developments and other amenities will make this vision a reality,” Adduci said.
What kinds of projects will move this notion remains to be seen. Village Administrator Eric Palm said officials will get feedback and ideas from business owners first in business district east and then the west area once that’s created.
Discussion and study of the issue started in April, when the Economic Development Commission approved the business district designation. Village officials suggested it as an avenue to get the owner of property at Lake Street and Lathrop Avenue to undertake environmental clean-up of his property.
Keystone Ventures, owned by River Forest resident Tim Hague, was tapped in 2010 to redevelop the site. Approximately $1.9 million was set aside from the dissolved TIF to move the project forward.
The “west district” includes village-owned land at Lake Street and ParkAvenue, and trustees are mulling which of three projects will be built on that site.
The estimated tax generated from both business districts will be reinvested into such activities as purchasing, managing, leasing and sell real and personal property. The funds also can be used to demolish buildings, construct or reconstruct of public buildings or make other site improvements. Funds can also provide low-interest loans to businesses that want to spruce up their storefronts.
Village officials estimate that $4.25 million will be generated for the east business district, which will include nearly $2 million already set aside for costs associated with Hague’s proposed project at Lake and Lathrop.
The anticipated reinvestment budget for the west district will be 1.5 million. Palm noted that a budget is merely an estimate of what the public project costs could be.
“It’s a tool for us as issues and needs arise,” Palm said.