As the condo market goes through its shakeout, other types of housing in Oak Park and River Forest are gathering strength. There are new townhome projects coming online, with others on the verge of construction or approval. They stretch from Madison Street in River Forest and Oak Park, to Harrison Street’s Arts District to, now, North Avenue. On Monday night, River Forest got a first look at a major assisted living project being proposed for the long underused northwest corner of Chicago and Harlem. Meanwhile, the mixed-use project at Lake and Lathrop may be taking shape after endless delay.
And, of course, the four apartment high-rises — built, under construction, approved — in downtown are a notable sign of confidence in the long-term appeal of our villages.
But let’s focus on the place of residential in realigning the use of property previously devoted to some form of commercial use. The six-unit townhome project proposed on North Avenue would fill a long, long vacant parcel. A very small infill project on Madison in Oak Park, just a bit west of Sugar Beet, would fill a similar hole in the street wall where a printer long stood. A larger townhome project will soon follow the demolition of the hideous and obsolete former District 97 school headquarters. Ranquist, developer of the handsome District House project on the Tasty Dog site on Lake, is seeking approval for a shared live/work townhouse project wedged nicely into the commercial strip of the Arts District.
These are steady and incremental boosts to our community. This happy circumstance doesn’t get the ink of a 19-story high-rise. But slowly these projects are converting undervalued and ugly snatches of our hard-to-develop streets into property-tax-paying homes for new neighbors.