A year ago this month, Rod Nunley tore down the tavern and liquor store that stood at the corner of Harlem and Franklin, unwittingly igniting a debate over the neighborhood’s development potential that delayed his plans to build a new auto repair shop.
This time around, however, his proposal has been well received by Forest Park officials. Nunley’s bid to construct a new, larger home for his Elite Tire business has cruised through two subcommittees and is poised to win approval from the village council.
Likewise, there has been little mention of the controversy – or the large-scale plans for neighboring properties – that once figured so prominently in the discussion.
“That’s gone away as an option,” said John Schiess, the architect who designed Nunley’s proposed garage, following a zoning board meeting in March. “The developer considered the economic conditions and they didn’t come forward with a plan.”
Along with several family members, including brother-in-law and prominent developer Tim Hague, Sheree Krisco owns and manages much of the land along Harlem between Franklin to the south and Circle to the north. Her company holds leases for the Dunkin Donuts and CVS stores that operate within that stretch, and has long been interested in acquiring other nearby parcels. The goal, she has explained, is to capitalize on the Green Line el station and create a so-called “gateway” into Forest Park.
No drawings were ever made public, but Krisco and sources within village hall touted multi-story buildings with a mix of commercial uses that would remake the entire block. That vision fits well with what urban planners have outlined the community should strive for in that neighborhood.
Given the likelihood that Elite Tire – a longtime tenant of Krisco’s – will relocate to 7201 Franklin, Krisco said she may need a different development strategy from what was suggested last year. Nothing is firm, she said.
“We may just have to be creative, that’s all,” Krisco said.
Krisco and Hague have not attended the recent municipal hearings on Nunley’s proposal, something they did the first time around about a year ago. They’ve also been reluctant to comment on their own development plans. During a recent phone interview, Krisco stressed that her family has no interest in walking away from the properties they own along Harlem, nor does it seem likely that any major changes will be made in the next year or two.
“At this point in time, I have tenants with active leases,” Krisco said. She declined to comment on when those leases expire.
Both CVS and Dunkin Donuts have expressed interest in reconfiguring their buildings, possibly moving the drug store closer to Harlem where it would be more visible. Dunkin Donuts, meanwhile, would be pushed slightly south and a drive-through window added. Krisco said those options would continue to be part of any future discussions, but requires a commitment from the tenants that she’s not sure they can make.
“Neither one is in a position to go dark to do a redevelopment there,” Krisco said.
During a plan commission meeting at which Nunley’s project was recommended for approval by the village council, how the building might fit into a large-scale rehab of the area was discussed. For example, should the property someday no longer be used as an auto repair shop, commission members received some assurances that the building could be converted to retail. The building department also confirmed that the available parking at the site would be suitable for a retail store.
Steve Bitter, chairman of the plan commission, described the proposal as “the best of what we have to work with” for the area.
Nunley’s proposal for a new Elite Tire will likely be voted on by the village council in the coming weeks.