The grand opening of one project vital to River Forest’s economy has been pushed back until summer, while another awaits the go-ahead from the village to put shovels in the ground.

The former is the re-tooling of the former Dominick’s Finer Foods site on North Avenue into a Fresh Thyme Farmers Market grocery store. The latter is turning the former Hines Lumber property on Madison Street into the Promenade Townhomes.

 Delays continue for Fresh Thyme

Build-out problems keep coming up, which will mean a grand opening will be most likely in July or August, an official with the chain has told Wednesday Journal. 

Project manager Jeff Sitterly said structural engineers are having to draft plans to rebuild a back corner of the store wall, which is important in shoring up part of the building. The problem was found as interior demolition of the building was being done. 

Sitterly said that work can start up once the village approves the plans. “Unfortunately with these old buildings, there are some unforeseen conditions and internal demolition uncovers more structural problems,” he said.

It could take as long as 20 weeks from the start of that work to get the store open, Sitterly said. 

“This is a great location; we are doing everything we can to open it up as soon as we can,” Sitterly said. 

Construction delays have plagued the project since the fall of 2014, which was when trustees approved a Cook County property tax exemption totaling up to $1 million to improve the building. Renovations were pegged to start in early 2015 with the opening anticipated for November 2015.

Construction didn’t start until the summer of 2015 and the opening was scheduled for February 2016. Even more delays pushed that date back to spring. 

Fresh Thyme will be eligible for the tax exemptions when the store opens, according to a spokesman for the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development. 

But there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Earlier this month River Forest Village Administrator Eric Palm told members of the Economic Development Commission that he and Assistant Village Administrator Lisa Scheiner spoke with a representative from Fresh Thyme’s marketing department about a target audience for the marketing, potential opening and what types of events could take place in the community.

Palm also told commissioners that administrative and fire department staff check the site once a week to see how things are going.

“We understand the importance of getting this open as much as they do,” Palm said.

The site has been closed since 2013 when Dominick’s parent company, Safeway, abandoned the Chicago market. A re-opening of a grocery store there, River Forest officials have said, could revitalize the entire North Avenue corridor. 

Fresh Thyme is projected to have sales of $11.7 million in its first year, based on the performance of other locations. 

 Promenade Townhomes

The president of Interforum Holdings of Northfield, which is developing the 29-unit project on the site of the former Hines Lumber Company at Lake Street and Forest Avenue in River Forest, has told Wednesday Journal construction could begin later in February or in March.

That start date will depend on when his firm obtains the appropriate permits, Alex Zdanov said. Revisions of the drawings came in on Feb. 4. Village staff are reviewing plans to see if the project meets code, as well as storm water, grading and similar requirements. 

Once all the plans get the village OK, the firm can start building, said Carol Foytik, the village’s permit clerk.

And once the plans are approved, the company can apply for a permit from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to do storm water and related improvements. Zdanov said that that should not delay excavating and pouring the foundations.

Village trustees approved the project early last summer. The long-vacant former Hines Lumber site was razed, but approval of permits was complicated because plans had to be revised to comply with village codes, Palm told Economic Development Commission members earlier this month.

The exterior of Promenade Townhomes will be completed, weather permitting by late December 2016 or early 2017. Interior improvements to each unit are expected to be finished during the winter, Zdanov said.

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