We are now under three months from a deadline — one already extended four times — for River Forest-based developer Tim Hague and the village government of River Forest to wrap up negotiations to remake the corner of Lake and Lathrop.
Village Administrator Eric Palm sounds cautious but optimistic that this complex project can finally move forward. Village President Cathy Adduci expresses confidence a deal will be reached by the deadline. We don’t know the mindset of Hague because he has been operating under radio silence for years on this project where he is, in village parlance, the “preferred” developer. Given the village board’s patience in granting repeated extensions and the pot of leftover TIF money — $1.9 million — the board has designated to boost this project, Hague feels to us more anointed than preferred.
Yes, we will give you that there has been a deep real estate recession since before Hague was “preferred,” way back in 2010. Yes, we understand the complexities of the environmental contamination of this large site and even into neighboring properties. Yes, we know that the person who caused the contamination through a longtime dry cleaning establishment has also been a recalcitrant property owner.
But the recession is now firmly over and the better question is how long the development window will remain open before new economic issues may arise. The extent of the soil contamination is generally known from previous testing, and good estimates of the cost of the clean-up should be available. And Ed Ditchfield, the dry cleaner and key property owner, has now died, which ought to smooth discussion on acquiring his estate’s portion of the site.
So now there is a March 31 deadline for this deal to be made. We’d look for the preferred developer and the village government to become much more forthcoming in explaining the scope of this project to citizens who are helping to pay for it with tax dollars. Size, massing, design details, price points will be welcome. Soon.