Developing a high-quality residential project is difficult enough even when everything comes together as planned. Add unexpected problems and a complicated process becomes even harder.
That’s what has happened for years at the site on the corner of Lake and Lathrop in River Forest. The history of the property and its challenging environmental circumstances would have scared away most developers or defeated others.
Despite a problematic environmental history of the site, legal challenges, an economic meltdown that wreaked havoc on the commercial development and housing markets, and now a global pandemic, Sedgwick Properties, the developer of RF-Lake Street that acquired the multiple sites at Lake and Lathrop in 2017, has persevered to achieve key milestones and is moving toward project groundbreaking in 2021.
The southwest corner of Lake and Lathrop site was the location of dry-cleaning businesses going back to the early 1920s. When the last dry-cleaning business closed its doors, they left behind environmental contaminants close to residences, businesses, schools and a well-attended church that were the by-product of an era when environmental regulations weren’t as strict as they are today.
Faced with environmental problems and low developer interest, River Forest officials designed a creative plan to transform an under-performing and functionally obsolete property into high-quality residential condominiums that would generate millions in long-term tax revenue for River Forest.
The village determined proceeds from a successful tax increment financing (TIF) district could be used to encourage development of the site and finance environmental clean-up. It had the potential to create a win-win situation.
From there, the village issued an RFP for developers to present their best ideas to develop the site. But while the location of the property is ideal and the technology was available to remediate the site to ensure public safety, the timing was terrible when that plan ran into the Great Recession of 2008.
Only one developer responded to the RFP, River Forest-based Keystone Ventures, which stepped up to enter into a pre-development agreement with the village in 2009 to create an economic model that enabled River Forest to preserve $2 million from the successful Lake and Harlem TIF for future development. With that financial framework in place, next came the tangled process to acquire the Lake and Lathrop and adjacent properties, which required negotiating with holdout property owners and vacating tenants who did not want to move. That long, expensive process stretched into 2017, when Sedgwick entered the development project with Keystone Ventures.
From 2017 to 2019 Sedgwick acquired the parcels but not all commercial tenants were willing to leave, which resulted in an eviction process that delayed demolition activities. Once legal issues were resolved, demolition was completed in early 2020, which is when Sedgwick bought out Keystone Ventures. Next on the agenda was no-shortcut environmental cleanup in which Sedgwick worked closely with the village and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the site and prepare it for RF-River Forest, a high-end condominium project that will be the first of its kind in River Forest.
The combination of the most environmentally challenging project in River Forest history, an economic calamity, litigation and, to top it off, a worldwide virus that plunged most commercial development into a standstill would have been enough to cause a less determined developer to throw in the towel. Sedgwick’s persistence is leading toward groundbreaking in mid-2021.
Sedgwick’s commitment to the project is generating consistent buyer interest and sales, with many homes now under contract. Pre-construction pricing is available from $699,000 to $1.475million at RF-Lake Street’s two-, three- and four-bedroom homes.
Each single-floor residence will offer private, walkout spaces with covered terraces running the length of the combined living and dining rooms. Second-floor homeowners will enjoy an additional 1,100 square feet of south-facing terrace, while penthouse homeowners can benefit from access to private rooftop patios. Each condominium will deliver two parking spaces, private elevator access, a chef-quality kitchen and high-volume ceilings.
Showroom hours have been reestablished from 10 a.m. to 12p.m. on Saturday/Sunday and by appointment during the week. Despite COVID-19, interest and excitement regarding the project have remained strong. The suburban home sales market has gained momentum in recent months, as homebuyers look to move away from densely populated neighborhoods in the city. This trend along with empty nesters has provided a new influx of single-family homeowners eager to downsize to a maintenance-free community like RF-Lake Street.
Corwin Partners at Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty is leading the sales and marketing efforts. Call 312-335-5354 or visit www.RF-LakeStreet.com to schedule a private appointment or virtual presentation.