First reported 2/26/2010 10:50 a.m.

Whether a multi-story housing development for seniors should be built on Harrison Street may soon be a decision that village officials need to make.

Constantine Fourlas, an investor in the potential project, said his partners would like to build at the site between Hannah and Thomas streets, just south of the park district complex. The site is home to the Oak Leaf bar and two automotive businesses, H&R Towing and Forest Park Foreign Car Repair. The Pines, a longtime restaurant on the site, has been shuttered for some time. The exact size and density of the housing development would be contingent on local approvals, Fourlas said. Mandates tied to any state or federal money used to subsidize construction could also have an effect on the project’s scope.

He loosely described the proposal as a four-story building with apartments available to renters 55 and older. The first floor could include commercial space.

Village Administrator Tim Gillian briefly mentioned the project during a Feb. 22 council meeting, and said he anticipates formal plans will be reviewed by the planning commission in early April. Fourlas confirmed that timeline, but said construction wouldn’t begin right away.

“You’re looking at a building that’s five years away,” he said.

The property, which extends from 7400 to 7412 Harrison, has been owned by Fourlas and his partners for several years under a limited liability company that takes its name from the site’s address. Members of that ownership group, including Fourlas, are also partners in a Chicago development firm called Structures Construction.

A third party to the proposed senior housing project, Heartland Alliance, would provide the expertise needed to design a building that caters to an aging population. That partnership has not been memorialized, according to Andrew Geer, vice president of Heartland, but an understanding has been reached.

“We’re partnering with some local folks from Forest Park,” Geer said.

Heartland Alliance is a large nonprofit in Chicago that focuses on human rights issues. Providing affordable housing, mostly in Chicago, is one of its goals. The group also offers legal services to immigrants and the poor, advocacy services on several fronts, and health care services.

The proposed development in Forest Park would not offer health services to its residents, according to Fourlas. Rent subsidies also are unlikely, but public money is expected to keep prices below market norms.

Gillian, the village administrator, stressed to council members that depending on the type of government money used during construction, the development would be required to serve low-income seniors for several decades. That assurance was offered to try and assuage any concerns that the site would quickly be transformed to a more profitable model.

The parcel targeted in the proposal is surrounded by single-family homes and smaller multi-unit properties. According to Fourlas, the hope is to build the apartments closer to Harrison so that it doesn’t leave other residents in the shadows, literally.

Deb Jensen has lived at 815 Hannah, directly south of the site, for about eight years. She has long been aware of the potential for redevelopment at 7400 Harrison and said she wouldn’t be sorry to see the bar closed down. It’s a bit noisy and patrons sometimes discard beer bottles in the neighborhood.

David Meyer, 814 Hannah, agreed that the Oak Leaf isn’t always the quietest neighbor, but is more concerned with parking congestion. So long as the senior housing development can provide parking to its residents, Meyer said he has no initial objections to the proposal.