Despite opposition from one trustee and a threat from another to not support additional extensions, the River Forest Village Board granted extensions to the developer who plans to build a five-story, mixed-use property at the southwest corner of the intersection of Lake Street and Lathrop Avenue.
The major changes of the amendment give Lake Lathrop Partners LLC more time to submit a permit application, begin construction and complete the project due to delays involving the departure of Cigar Oasis from 7619 Lake St. Lake Lathrop Properties is a joint venture between Sedgwick Properties and Keystone Ventures.
The village board voted 4-1 to approve an amendment to the agreement with Lake Lathrop Partners, with Trustee Patty Henek casting the negative vote and Trustee Respicio Vazquez recusing himself, citing a common-law conflict of interest since he works for the law firm that represents River Forest School District 90 and Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200.
Under the amendment, the deadline for submitting the permit application has been changed from June 17, 2019, to Dec. 15, 2019; for beginning construction from Dec. 17, 2019, to May 1, 2020, or 30 days after the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency approves the remediation action plan for the project, whichever is later; and for completing the project from June 17, 2021, to Nov. 1, 2021.
“It took a little while to get the tenants out,” village President Cathy Adduci said in explaining the request for an extension and noting that the owners of Cigar Oasis had fought eviction efforts.
In response to a request from Henek for an update on the project, Mark McKinney, Sedgwick project manager, said plans are “evolving” but acknowledged they are not finalized.
He said soil borings for environmental purposes have been completed and additional soil borings to determine the capability of building support are under way. He added that commitments have been received from five prospective residents and cited “recent sales activity.”
When asked by Henek about financing, McKinney said, “We’re in that process.” He noted an appraisal is required prior to financing, which he said his firm hopes to complete in November.
Outside the meeting, Cory Robertson, director of developer services for Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty, real estate agent for the residential project, dismissed concerns that the project is on hold, as Henek implied while questioning McKinney.
Robertson said the temporary closing of the sales office for two weeks in late August and early September, which might have given that impression, was for personnel reasons and not an indication the project was on hold.
“The sales office is open now,” he said. “For a couple of weeks we saw interested parties on an appointment basis while we were transitioning some of our people.”
Marty Paris, Sedgwick president, also noted that the demolition process for this project is taking longer than similar demolition processes because the demolition firm is recycling a portion of the material.
Although he voted in favor of the amendment, Trustee Tom Cargie was critical of the delay.
“This is the last extension I will vote for,” he said. “It seems like a continuous process of delays. There will be no more excuses moving forward.”
Trustee Erika Bachner asked whether officials would terminate the agreement on the project if another extension is requested.
Adduci said she believed they would, adding “We have to get this done.”
River Forest has committed $1.9 million in set-aside TIF funding for the development. If trustees vote to take back the property, then the village must reimburse the developer for demolition and environmental remediation costs. The developer previously estimated demolition at $250,000 and the village’s environmental consultant estimated soil remediation at $1.2 million.
After the meeting Adduci expressed optimism the project would be completed but noted the “clawback” clause in the original contract that would allow the village to cancel the contract and name a new developer.
“It’s going to work,” she said. “I think our relationship is good. It took a while to get the tenants out.”
She noted that the developer paid for demolition without outside financing and said she is “confident” that financing will be arranged. She also noted that soil remediation cannot begin until after all the material from the demolition is removed.
“We want it clean,” she said.