So, we’ve got an empty branch bank. That used to be a pie shop. It swims in a parking lot far larger than was ever necessary. And it sits on Harlem Avenue, the most commercial street in River Forest. 

We’d call the northwest corner of Harlem and Chicago ripe for redevelopment.

So would the developers who have proposed a 125-unit assisted living and memory-care senior project. It would encompass both the now vacant TCF Bank property plus three single-family homes stretching north on Harlem, which it currently has under contract. (TCF Bank has moved across Harlem into another, also abandoned, branch bank facility.)

The project, under discussion for well over one year, made its way to River Forest’s Development Review Board last week where a small crowd of mainly immediate neighbors, not surprisingly found the project too big, too tall, with inadequate parking and worries over storm water run-off. Further, these armchair developers raise doubts as to the need for such additional senior housing in River Forest.

 The length of the discussion led the DRB to continue the meeting to this week when it will, hopefully, come its conclusion.

We’re confident that conclusion will be a recommendation that the River Forest village board OK the project essentially as proposed. Yes, this is a big project on a big parcel. It is not overly high — it ranges north to south from three to four stories. It features both a green roof to absorb water and some underground capture-and-release mechanism. The developers allow that the average age of their tenants is 86. That will reduce the in-and-out of auto traffic. Not to be overlooked is the estimated $500,000 in annual property taxes estimated to be generated.

This is a private market deal with development experts who understand the market among aging local boomers. The risk is theirs not the neighbors.

Finally, we’d ask for the alternatives. Bring back the International House of Pies? Construct brick-and-mortar retail? Lure Chase to open another branch? 

This is a solid proposal and a good addition to River Forest.

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