An auto mechanic whose plans to build a new garage on Harlem were derailed last year is again asking village officials to sign off on his project. Rod Nunley, owner of Elite Tire at 25 S. Harlem, said that this time around he can’t afford to sit through months of negotiations. His lease for the shop he has managed since 1986 expires at the end of June.
“It definitely is a deadline. I’m not planning on being here after June 30,” Nunley said. “I expect to be next door.”
Nunley owns the vacant parcel at the corner of Franklin and Harlem, immediately south of the repair shop he currently operates. He bought the site in anticipation of building a new, larger garage. In 2008, Nunley began the process of winning municipal say-so to begin work, but village officials and a neighboring property owner, Circle Plaza LLC, attempted to persuade Nunley to sell his property, thereby facilitating a massive redevelopment of the entire block.
Local real estate players Sherree Krisco and Tim Hague are two-thirds of Circle Plaza LLC.
Last year, Nunley requested a variance from the zoning board that would allow him to construct a garage. The board voted in a 3-3 tie, meaning that the project would be passed to the village council without a recommendation. But commissioners were never asked to vote on the project as Nunley, Circle Plaza and the village attempted to broker a deal.
Circle Plaza LLC is also Nunley’s landlord. The trust holds leases for a nearby Dunkin Donuts and CVS, as well. In a 2008 interview, Krisco said the leases for the other businesses will also expire in 2009, making this a crucial time to negotiate with Nunley. To redevelop the neighborhood though, Hague and Krisco would still need to acquire several properties in addition to Nunley’s parcel at 7201 Franklin.
“I haven’t talked to anybody for quite some time,” Nunley said of those negotiations.
Forest Park’s master planning document, the Comprehensive Plan, calls for multilevel, multi-use development in the area to take advantage of the nearby el station and bring in greater revenue for the village. Though Nunley’s proposed garage does not fit with that vision, he has expressed a willingness to incorporate any design elements that would help his business blend with whatever construction Circle Plaza proposes. Former village administrator Mike Sturino said last year that he had discussed the possible redevelopment of the area with Circle Plaza on several occasions. No plans were ever submitted for a formal review.
Nunley is expecting the zoning board to review his proposal – again – in February, and then head to the council for a decision in March. Mayor Anthony Calderone, who met with Nunley on several occasions last year, said he is aware of Nunley’s intentions and would support the project when it reaches the council.