For the last couple years Stephen Sullivan has shared his basement apartment at 415 Circle Ave. with his two dogs. He’s the only tenant in the aging multi-family home and said he expects to renew his lease for another year when his current agreement expires next month.
Sullivan, 45, said he has heard the rumblings that Forest Park needs more parking along Madison Street and realizes his neighborhood has been the subject of much speculation. His own address is flanked on two sides by a pair of parking lots- one to the north and one across the street-and diagonally to the southwest is another. Just the other day, he said, an appraiser came by to have a look.
“Do you know how long it took me to find this place,” Sullivan said as he got his German Shepard and Labrador retriever ready for a walk. “That’s why I’m not going anywhere.”
Earlier this month the village council took steps to secure $250,000 in grant funding that could help the municipality purchase the building Sullivan lives in. In Forest Park’s quest to increase the amount of parking along Madison Street, 415 Circle Ave. is the most attractive option at this point, according to Mayor Anthony Calderone, who has confirmed negotiations with the building’s owner, local banker Jerry Vainisi. A next step in deciding whether the village would buy the property is to have it appraised, public officials said.
Vainisi would not comment on what he’s asking for the property, but said he does not expect the grant to cover the purchase.
“It’s definitely worth more than that,” Vainisi said.
Village Administrator Mike Sturino did not return a phone call asking whether the appraiser Sullivan spotted was hired by the village.
Dating back to a 2006 engineer’s report on the availability of parking along Madison Street, 415 Circle Ave. in particular has been identified as a target for any possible expansions. Its proximity to existing parking lots and the bustling intersection of Madison and Circle are attractive enough, and now the owner of the site is a willing seller. Vainisi, the president of Forest Park National Bank, has not listed the site as being for sale but confirmed he will listen to offers from the village.
According to the 2006 parking study, there is a need for 35 additional spaces within the 400 block of Circle Avenue.
“Why tear down a house? How much [parking] are you gonna get,” Sullivan said. “If it’s just one building I don’t think it’s really going to be worth it.”
Tina Gustasson lived at 415 Circle Ave. with her parents for six or seven years, she said, before moving out about a month ago. Gustasson, 23, was planning to get a place of her own and an increase in rent prompted her parents to find another apartment.
Both she and Sullivan said they often saw spaces available in the municipal parking lot across the street and questioned how severe the shortage is. Motorists typically use the free on-street parking that’s available in the neighborhood before filling the lot, she said.
“I just think nobody wants to pay for [parking],” Gustasson said.
Sullivan questioned why the village doesn’t build a parking garage or take advantage of property that’s currently vacant.
“Forest Park is famous for abandoned gas stations,” Sullivan said.
As for Sullivan’s expectation that he will be renewing a lease agreement in the near future, Vainisi said he has instructed the property manager not to offer new leases at the Circle Avenue property. Expressing confidence that a deal with the village will be reached, Vainisi said it would be unfair to a tenant if a new contract were turned over to another owner.