The Oak Park Zoning Board of Appeals approved plans this week for a temporary sales office on Lake Street for The District House, the new mixed use retail and condo project soon to rise at the site of the old Tasty Dog, 708 Lake St.

That temporary use of what under the zoning code is expected to be a retail location will follow its use as a leasing office for the Vantage high rise just west on Lake Street. Before that it was temporary office space for @properties incursion into Oak Park.

So why has this highly visible space been so hard to rent to a retail or restaurant use?

Jim Solnes, the primary owner of the Scoville Square building, told the ZBA that he’s had difficulty finding an occupant for the Lake Street space in part because of a long-term non-compete clause in his lease with Winberie’s Restaurant & Bar, 151 N. Oak Park Ave. He said the lease prevents him from allowing another restaurant to open in the Scoville Square building, a cornerstone of the Hemingway District.

“I’m still hoping we do get a retail tenant for the holiday season,” Solnes told the ZBA. “Things have not been great. [The Oak Park Economic Development Corporation] has been wonderful. The guys have been more active with me the last two years than I’ve had in 22 years. I feel the economy coming back, but if it wasn’t for the Winberie’s restriction, I would have had my choice of five restaurants.”

Solnes said that given the choice, he would have picked Q-BBQ, which recently opened at 124 N. Marion St.

— Timothy Inklebarger

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