Frustrated River Forest officials reluctantly gave the developers of the Lake and Lathrop project a 90-day extension to start construction at the Oct. 25 village board meeting.
The action was not unexpected given that construction on the project has yet to begin and came a week before the deadline developers were given in October 2019 to complete the project.
The proposal by Lake Lathrop Partners LLC to build a four-story, mixed-use development containing 22 condominium units and 14,000 square feet of retail space was approved in 2016.
Lake Lathrop Properties is a joint venture between Sedgwick Properties and Keystone Ventures. The original project included another story and eight more units but was scaled back.
The ordinance approving the third amendment to the second amended and related redevelopment agreement was approved 5-1 with Trustee Katie Brennan casting the only negative vote.
“There is a long history of delays and a lack of confidence,” she said. “I think it’s possible for this project to be successful but we can’t count on possible. I hope you prove me wrong.”
Despite voting in favor, no trustees embraced the extension, expressing frustration with the lack of progress and reluctance to pull the plug and start over.
Residents who spoke during the citizen comments portion of the meeting also expressed frustration over the delays.
Some also expressed concern over wording in the amendment regarding the village relinquishing the “clawback” clause, but Village Attorney Greg Smith explained that the developer is required to meet five specific goals for that to happen.
In addition to beginning site work on the project, the developer will be required to obtain construction financing, enter into contracts with its general contractor and subcontractors, pay the balance of the permit fee to the village and start work on the project’s concrete footings.
“This isn’t easy. It shouldn’t be like this,” Trustee Bob O’Connell said. However, he said he was “willing to go 90 days more.”
Trustees Lisa Gillis and Ken Johnson cited concerns about starting over with Gillis noting, “We don’t have time to start over.” Johnson pointed out that “starting over would take even more time.”
Trustees Erika Bachner and Respicio Vazquez shared residents’ feelings of frustration.
“I understand residents’ frustration,” Bachner said. “I’m frustrated, too. I’m voting yes but I’m not happy.”
“I totally appreciate residents’ frustration,” Vazquez said referring to the required steps as “a last set of sink-or-swim conditions.”
Mark McKinney of Sedgwick Properties informed the board that two more residential units have been sold — two penthouse units that will be combined into a single unit — putting the total number of units sold at 15. He also said a medical tenant has committed to taking 2,500 square feet of the retail space and that three others, two restaurants and another medical firm, had expressed serious interest. He also indicated the developer is negotiating with a prospective lender and is close to agreements with a general contractor and subcontractors.
“We have made meaningful progress,” McKinney added.
In a memo to the board, Lisa Scheiner, acting village manager, backed him up. She pointed out that since the last extension was granted two years ago, the developer obtained a bridge loan for site remediation and substantially completed that work, relocated utilities and obtained a permit from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
Referring to the remediation, Village President Cathy Adduci noted, “We have a clean piece of property.”
Under terms of the amendment, the developer will be required to commence bona-fide construction by Jan. 23, 2022, and complete the project in 18 months.
To meet the timeline, the developer will pay $50,000 toward the $220,439.25 cost of a building permit from the village, which is ready to be issued. Once the permit is issued, the developer will begin work on the project, including removing two feet of topsoil from the site that is unsuitable for construction and excavating further down in certain areas to install foundations later.
A rare glimmer of optimism was expressed by Vazquez, who said, “We’re almost at the end of this marathon. Hopefully this will get it done.”