The clock is ticking on a project that would overhaul a section of Madison Street from Oak Park Avenue to East Avenue – and Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb says the deal’s not dead yet.
Abu-Taleb, who also serves as a voting member of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation (OPEDC), a nonprofit group tasked with bringing economic development to the village, told Wednesday Journal that negotiations continue on a proposed development with Jupiter Realty.
Jupiter was chosen as the preferred developer of a parcel of village-owned land at the corner of Oak Park Avenue and Madison Street in December 2016. That project would comprise new residential and retail properties on both sides of Madison Street and bend the street to accommodate an anchor tenant on the south side of the street.
The roughly $13 million available in the Madison Street Tax Increment Financing District fund could help pay for the project, but the TIF expires at the end of 2018, putting pressure on the village and its preferred developer to lock in aspects of the project in the coming months.
Abu-Taleb said late last year that grocery store chains Mariano’s and Jewel had expressed interest in being the anchor tenant, but both ultimately took a pass on the project. He added that talks continue with a third, yet-to-be-named grocer, but a deal has not been reached.
“We are not there yet,” Abu-Taleb said. “I would say the project is not dead. We’re moving as fast as the slowest stakeholder.”
He said the village has one chance to get it right.
The project, if completed, would generate a projected $1.6 to $1.8 million in property taxes annually. Currently the same parcels are generating about $140,000 each year in property taxes. Abu-Taleb has said the village might be able to extend the Madison TIF, but that conversation has not yet taken place.
He said that in order to attract business and development to the area, the village and developer have to create a sense of space, and Madison Street in its current form has the feel of a highway.
He said that the Emerson mixed-use development project near the corner of Lake Street and Harlem Avenue took nearly a decade to complete.
Other trustees on the village board have yet to hear any firm information on the project.
“I’m hearing absolutely nothing, and I’m getting antsy,” said Trustee Deno Andrews.
Andrews said he is comfortable with OPEDC and the mayor taking the lead on the project, but something needs to happen soon.
“I think that there’s been ample time for the preferred developer to make a deal on Madison Street, and if that deal doesn’t get presented soon, I think it’s our fiduciary duty to rethink the preferred developer’s status or putting it back out to [a request for proposals],” Andrews said.