Oak Park resident Dan Moroney previously worked in advertising, as a trader at the Chicago Board of Trade and as a house-flipper. Now his latest project, a multi-use development located between Fat Duck and Skrine Chops at 7228 Madison St. in Forest Park, is nearing its completion.
"I don't really like to renovate old homes anymore," Moroney said. "It's too much work and I decided I wanted to get into new construction."
The development, which consists of four high-end apartments and a commercial space beneath, was started in 2013 when Moroney took a gamble and bought the building's lot.
Previously, he said, a two-flat building and commercial garage sat on the property. By the time Moroney came along, only the garage remained, which he tore down to make way for his development.
The 11,000-square-foot building features a brick exterior with a decorative cornice at its peak.
Moroney said he bet big on the project by beginning it without any of the spaces leased. But he felt his idea for the project would be highly marketable in Forest Park. He even financed the project himself because of difficulties getting a bank to back his type of commercial structure.
"I think Forest Park, but also Oak Park and River Forest, are ripe for these smaller-scale developments," he said, "especially for new construction, since there is so little of it available."
Moroney thinks he may be onto something. All four apartments were leased within a week of being advertised on the market, he said. Each apartment rents for $2,500 a month and includes big kitchens, three large bedrooms, laundry in-unit, and a parking space. He said he was also close to finding a tenant for the 3,500-square-foot commercial space below, which might end up being divided into two storefronts. The storefront features 12-foot ceilings and an open floor plan.
"I think people are really looking for new," Moroney said of the rental market in the area. "They also want high-end finishes and big master bedrooms and baths."
Older construction in Forest Park, he said, generally provide neither. His property targets professionals who desire an urban downtown with shopping and restaurants and who commute to work. The tenants who have rented the apartments told him they liked the proximity to public transportation and being nestled between two restaurants in a bustling downtown setting.
"One tenant said the urban appeal of downtown Forest Park really drew them," he noted.
Moroney said he wasn't initially planning to do a project in Forest Park. Prior to starting, he had completed new home construction projects in Oak Park and River Forest. It was the nearly empty lot that drew him to Madison Street, which he purchased in foreclosure. Previously, the property was owned by Brian and Mary Sullivan, who owned Doc Ryan's at the time.
"There's not a lot of them available," he said of vacant spaces in the area. "When I saw the opportunity, I jumped on it."
The project was not without its hurdles. Moroney needed to put a storm water runoff system under the alley behind the project and ran into issues with the village. The village said he would also need to replace the alley at his own cost in order to put in the sewer system. Moroney said the alley was in terrible condition and asked the village to pay their share. The Village Zoning Commission said nearby residents were concerned about storm water from the building adding to flooding on Elgin Avenue.
The issue nearly put a stop to the project, he said. He considered selling the building, and even put it on the market. In the end, the village agreed to pay for a majority of the repaving and he picked up the rest.
Moroney said he's happy he's coming to the end of this project and is excited to move forward with others in the future. In particular, he thinks similar developments would work well along Oak Park's Madison Street.
"I feel strongly that Oak Park should continue to look for local developers to start smaller developments that can collectively revitalize some of the neglected districts of the village," he said.
Moroney said he hopes his current project will help him with those bigger plans down the road.
"For me, personally, another aspect of this project that was appealing was that it would hopefully open some doors for me," he said.