A four-story, multi-use development slated for the 7700 block of Madison Street could be a catalyst for further growth in the area, according to Forest Park officials, but a contractor for the project said the stumbling economy may force everyone to be patient.
The zoning board was slated to hear what would have been the first public discussion on the 8,300-square foot building at its meeting last week. That presentation has been postponed to July, according to Philip Domenico of Catalyst Construction, while his client waits for the housing market to rebound. Domenico’s firm is working with the property owner, Celeste Nicolas of Morton Grove.
However, Domenico and several local officials expressed excitement over the opportunity to help refurbish a neighborhood that has largely been left out of an economic resurgence on Madison, at least to the east of Desplaines Avenue. The currently vacant site sits just west of the north-south route at 7730 Madison St.
“I think the project they’re presenting is actually quite good, from the elevations to the design,” Village Administrator Mike Sturino said.
Construction plans submitted to the village describe a multi-use building with retail and garage parking on the first floor, office space on the second floor and eight residential units on the third and fourth floors. Several variances to the zoning code are needed before construction can begin, but in a June 11 memo to members of the zoning board a planning consultant for the municipality expressed support for the project.
“Staff believes this building will set a new trend for downtown development west of Desplaines,” consultant Jo Ellen Charlton said in her memo.
That trend likely will have to wait, however, because Domenico does not expect to break ground until the spring of 2009. Potential buyers for the condo units are likely to find hurdles in acquiring financing, said Domenico, just as construction firms are struggling to get loans to erect multi-use properties. Overall, Domenico said he is confident in the success of the development; it’s just a matter of waiting for an upswing in the market.
“I’ll be honest with you, it’s going to put the brakes on it,” Domenico said. “It would be silly to say we’re going to put a bunch of condos on the market and not know where the buyers are coming from. It’s almost like a chicken or the egg thing.”
Plans for the building have been in the works for roughly a year, according to Sturino, and fall in line with what many in the community have envisioned for that area. Representatives from both the public and private sector have recently begun to refocus their attention on the western end of Madison Street and have looked for ways to partner with neighboring River Forest. While the goals within the community may be somewhat universal, Sturino said it appears River Forest has a different vision for its property in that neighborhood.
Forest Park is looking to extend the mixed-use experience between Harlem Avenue and Desplaines Avenue further west, which means putting storefronts closer to the street and moving parking lots toward the rear of the properties. According to Sturino, River Forest favors doing the exact opposite.
The difference is not a source of acrimony, he said, but does represent a philosophical split.
“River Forest is going in a different direction, as you can clearly see,” Sturino said. “It doesn’t necessarily fit with what’s unique on Madison Street, but we don’t tell River Forest what to do.”