“People want to see development, period. … I don’t know what kind of businesses will set up there, but if they employ four, five, six people and those people are active in town … or people have another place to meet to have a cup of coffee or eat, that will add value to the town,” said Health & Safety Commissioner Rory Hoskins, explaining his motivation for voting in favor of construction of a new, mixed-use building on the vacant lot at 7228 Madison Street. The Forest Park Village Council unanimously approved the ordinance at Monday night’s meeting.
The longtime vacant lot is situated between FatDuck and Skrine Chops. The developer, Dan Moroney, plans to construct a three-story building with ground level commercial space and multiple residential units occupying the upper floors. As reported by the Review in February 2014, Moroney purchased the property in 2012 for $225,000. However, development stalled after disagreements over potential storm runoff issues in the alleyway behind the property. The village asked Moroney to fund improvements to the village-owned alleyway after rejecting his proposed plan of installing a 125-foot drainage pipe under the existing pavement. Citing the high cost of repaving the alleyway, Moroney would not commit to the village proposal.
The April 13 approval came after the disagreement was finally resolved. According to an April 9 memo to the village of Forest Park from Jo Ellen Charlton, an AICP planning consultant, Moroney has agreed to “install the required storm sewer service line in the alley between his property and Elgin, to connect to the village’s utility in that right-of-way, and the restoration of the alley trench when he is finished.”
Along with site approval, the ordinance also allowed for a variation in zoning regulations. Normally businesses in the downtown business district are required to have ample loading space for delivery trucks. However, the property at 7228 Madison St. does not contain “adequate clearances for a truck to get in and out of a designated loading zone.” But there is precedent to allow construction without the necessary delivery zones. In 2005, a similar variation was approved for a property at 7410 Madison.
When asked by the Review about the variation, Hoskins responded, “I don’t think it’s a good reason to hold up the project. … It’s a tight urban area. … We’d like to have more space for loading and unloading, for trucks to be able to pull into a loading dock [but] that’s not really what we’re working with in Forest Park. So the idea of holding up a project because we couldn’t quite get it perfect with respect to loading and unloading doesn’t really sound compelling to me.”
Referring to the current state of the 7228 Madison property, Hoskins said, “That vacant lot itself is what I consider an eyesore and I think a lot of people consider it an eyesore. We want to have businesses in Forest Park. We want to have new residents in Forest Park. I just think it is a good project. … As someone who has lived in this town for about 16 years, I want to see the transformation of Madison Street complete.”