For a town that has made its reputation over the past 15 years with its “open for business” attitude, it is mighty peculiar that a seemingly inviting plan to develop the gateway at Harlem and Madison can’t even get a date on the Zoning Board’s docket.
Renderings of a handsome new Starbucks (with a drive-thru) and an additional storefront have been on public view since March. Using the traditional Forest Park development measures, we should all be ordering a Pumpkin Spice Latte by now. Instead we have reached a point of stasis with the village government oddly mum on why this isn’t a slam dunk and the development team, led by the typically inside the circle David King, playing an outsider’s game in going to the press with a strong nudge to break this plan loose.
Let’s set the scene: We’re talking about the northwest corner of Harlem and Madison. Used to be a Shell station. For the past half-decade it has been a vacant lot with its apparent highest and best use being as overflow parking for the nearby RUSH Oak Park Hospital.
Before the market crashed seven years back, Forest Park leaders looked at two derelict gas stations in key locations as prime redevelopment parcels that would bookend entry ways into the Madison Street business district. When real estate tanked, the vision of a mixed use project at the old Mobil station at Madison and Des Plaines vanished and Forest Park wound up with an even bigger McDonald’s. That still stings.
Village Administrator Tim Gilian says the village is not the hold-up, that the developer has so far failed to turn in a full application to be considered. King says such an application will be final soon. This is likely not the full and complete story.
A lawyer for the developer says the only concern raised thus far by the village is the amount of traffic that a Starbucks drive-thru might add to the intersection. But, he said, concessions have already been made that will limit inbound traffic to Madison only.
In any event, it is a curious dance underway with Mayor Anthony Calderone and Gillian thus far blocking even a hearing before the zoning board and King, who ran Calderone’s early campaigns, on the outside looking in.
Permanent limbo or is there a compromise possible? Right now we’re left with a very ugly parking lot.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And we don’t mean Christmas.
It’s Halloween and in Forest Park that means another edition of “Tales of the Tombstones.” The Historical Society of Oak Park-River Forest will again bring to life a fascinating batch of lives from among the souls long buried at Forest Home Cemetery.
The event is this Sunday beginning at 12:45 p.m. The last walking tour takes off at 2 p.m. And at 4:30, the cemetery gates are locked and the grounds are returned again to the permanent residents.