Two businesses on the south side of Forest Park received approval Monday to move forward with their construction plans. One of the companies, located on Industrial Drive, is expanding its operation, while the other plans to radically alter what is widely considered to be on eyesore on Harlem Avenue.
Plans to demolish a vacant building at 1215 S. Harlem Ave. to make way for a strip mall were approved by the council in late May, pending the completion of a few minor engineering changes. Those changes, according to a memo from the village’s building department, have been slow in coming but finally arrived at the municipal office earlier this month. Monday’s approval from the village council should trigger the release of the necessary permits to begin work at the site.
That project is expected to bring a 9,000-square foot retail center to the address, located just south of the intersection with Roosevelt Road. The property is the former home of Savant Medical Supply. The new single-story brick construction will feature nine stores.
To the south west of that location at 7501 Industrial Drive, Weinstein Wholesale Meats is expected to construct an addition to its facility and create additional truck parking on an adjacent lot. Council members earlier this month authorized the village attorney to draft a resolution authorizing the project, meanwhile waiving a $427,300 fee that municipal staff attempted to attach as a contingency.
That fee would have been put toward the estimated $4 million cost of reconstructing Industrial Drive, according to the municipality. In acknowledging the need to rebuild the roadway, council members said the fee was too steep. However, elected officials are considering other ways to force businesses along the cul-de-sac to contribute to the road repairs.
Council members have not formally begun the process of introducing any type of special assessment on the property owners along Industrial Drive, but earlier this month did review a memo outlining the pros and cons of such fees. Monday’s vote was tied strictly to the expansion of the meat wholesaler, but rhetoric surrounding the possibility of additional fees for those business owners is underway.
Chris Wessels, who owns a construction company at the corner of Industrial Drive and Desplaines Avenue, said he and his neighbors already pay a “disproportionate share” of the taxes in Forest Park. Wessels has been an outspoken critic of the proposal to further tax Industrial Drive businesses, and said municipal leaders have failed to adequately plan for the street’s maintenance.
Several public officials responded to comments Wessels made Monday, calling his statements “mischaracterizations.”
Commissioner Mark Hosty said businesses along Industrial Drive pay roughly .5 percent of the village’s budget through property taxes. That number is a far cry, he said, from the estimated 10 percent suggested by Wessels.
In 2006, property taxes paid by the property owners on Industrial Drive amounted to a total of $1.425 million, according to figures provided earlier this month by Hosty. Of that, roughly 14.3 percent, or $203,500, is collected by Forest Park.