River Forest officials are restarting dormant efforts to develop property on the southeast corner of Lake Street and Park Avenue after years of failed attempts.

The potential project area consists of three parcels, including two under village control — a parking lot at 7787 Lake St. and a vacant lot at 419 Park Ave. — and one privately owned parcel at 7777 Lake St. 

The owner of 7777 Lake St. previously had expressed a willingness to include his property in a coordinated redevelopment of the site but more recently declined to sell the property.

Trustee Bob O’Connell told fellow officials at the Nov. 22 village board meeting that “development site available” signs would be posted at the two village-owned parcels.

He said the hope would be for the signs to attract a person who is “not in the traditional developer role.”

The village has issued four requests for proposals for the site between 2010 and 2017. 

The most recent effort to develop the site, which occurred in 2018, was led by Chicago-based Ehlers and Associates, a financial and economic development advisory company. 

Two developers, IBT/Walsh, the investment arm of the Chicago-based Walsh Construction, and the Chicago-based Focus Development, proposed a mixed commercial-residential development for the area that would generate property tax revenue for the village, but that effort also fizzled.

In 2015, the village entered into negotiations for a redevelopment agreement with Keystone Ventures, which proposed a mixed-use development for the site that would have included up to 16,000 square feet of retail space and 35 residential units but no agreement was ever reached.

According to the village’s economic development commission, the village’s comprehensive plan that was adopted in 2019 calls for “appropriate” redevelopment of the site to be in the five- to six-story range. Village officials expect development of the site to be sensitive to other multifamily and commercial properties adjacent to the site and aim to be congruous to those sites.

According to a description of the site on the village website, the properties are in an area of Lake Street referred to as the Village Center Area, which is intended to be a “charming, pedestrian-oriented, retail/mixed-use environment that serves in some ways as the symbolic heart of the village.”  

The comprehensive plan calls for retail/commercial/mixed-use buildings located along Lake Street at or near the sidewalk, with multistory, multifamily development located along Central Avenue and the southern portions of the blocks. 

Each development opportunity requires a heightened level of sensitivity and creativity to appropriately balance the village’s existing character with the need and desire for economic development while protecting open space and environmental areas from development encroachment.

The village hall/police/fire facility on the west side of Park Avenue is expected to remain and no expansion plans are anticipated.

The village acquired the parking lot at 7787 Lake in 2003 and 419 Park, which was previously a single-family home,  in 2010.

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