If commissioners vote to acquire six privately owned properties for additional parking along Madison Street, it would not be a first for Forest Park.
To construct the nine municipal lots along Madison Street, the land for each had to be purchased from private owners and rezoned for parking. According to former commissioners, public records and news reports, many of the buyouts were conducted amiably. However, a proposal in 1979 to create parking at Constitution Court was not popular with a nearby property owner and the matter was ultimately settled in court.
“The owner dug in his heels,” former commissioner Jerry Jacknow said.
The present-day council is considering an expansion of Constitution Court that includes the acquisition of two homes on Thomas Avenue. The respective owners of those properties, Patty McKenna and Maneesh Kumai, have both voiced their objections to the plan.
The same plan that takes aim at McKenna’s and Kumai’s property includes an expansion of the village lot at the corner of Circle Avenue and Madison Street. That expansion would require the purchase of four privately owned properties.
Mayor Anthony Calderone, a lifelong resident of the village, said it’s not unheard of for the village to buy up housing for parking.
“Everywhere there is a municipal lot, there was some structure there before,” Calderone said.
Prior to the existence of the lot at Circle and Madison streets, there were two mixed-use buildings at 7329 and 7335 Madison. In 1967, the village negotiated the purchase of these two buildings that had commercial space on the ground floor and apartments above.
“The buildings were not on the market,” Jacknow, a commissioner at the time, said. “We negotiated a price with the owners.”
Jacknow recalled that a property on the corner of Lathrop and Madison streets, a mixed-use structure, was left in bad shape by a fire when the village bought it for a surface parking lot sometime in the late 60s, or early 70s.
“It was good timing to get that property,” Jacknow said.
The existing lot at 415 Beloit Ave. came about when a two-flat at the location went on the market and the village was able to negotiate a purchase price with the owner.
Former mayor Lorraine Popelka was a commissioner in the 1980s when the village built several municipal lots. According to Popelka, the property behind the Forest Park Bank was acquired when the owner of the home there died.
“We never used eminent domain and none were condemned,” Popelka said. “We always worked with the homeowner or their estate.”
In the case of the lot behind what is now La Piazza, the houses were not demolished, but rather moved down Madison Street to the 7700 block of Monroe Avenue.
“It went well and everyone was happy,” Jacknow said.
In 1973, the village bought the property at 417 Hannah Ave. and rezoned it for parking without incident.
The properties for the lot at Constitution Court were more difficult for the village to secure. In November of 1979, the village looked into acquiring the rear 75 feet behind what was Gentleman Jim’s Barber Shop and the property that housed Good Light Company, along with the adjacent vacant lots on the corner of Thomas Avenue and Madison Street.
The properties were appraised by two firms; the Good Lite portion was valued at $84,500, while the land behind the barber shop was appraised at $9,750.
Good Lite Company rejected the village’s initial offer of $84,500. On Dec. 3, 1980, the village increased its offer to $95,000, but the owners requested $125,000.
On Dec. 24, 1980, a Cook County Circuit judge ruled that the owners of Good Lite accept the village’s offer of $107,000. The village also worked with the owners to relocate the business to 15th and Hannah streets, where the business remained until 1999.