Rumors over months that Hobby Lobby or HOBO were eyeing the long vacant Kmart space at the Forest Park Plaza on Roosevelt Road remain just that. But Forest Park’s economic development consultant did confirm to the village council last week that a lease is now pending for the massive space. She implied that some sort of village incentive to a new tenant might be forthcoming. When well-structured, such plans deserve consideration.

That is great news for the village which will pocket new sales and property tax revenues and for Living Word Church, the owner of the mall. Bridget Lane, the village’s consultant, also reported strong interest, likely from fast fooders, in the so-called out lots at the mall. Those are available spaces, currently used for parking, facing Roosevelt Road. She notes that everyone in the fast food biz is enviously aware of the stupendous success of the Portillo’s at Roosevelt and Desplaines. 

The village council extended Lane’s contract for six months which was a good idea. We like her outreach to other neighboring communities, including LaGrange and Western Springs. Growing the development pie rather than perpetually competing with neighbors is the right attitude.

We are cautious about expanding acceptable uses for traditional retail spaces on Madison Street. Lane suggested allowing tutoring services, dentists and doctors to lease space currently reserved for stores, restaurants and some services.

We fully understand that retail is harder and harder to come by in the age of Amazon. But giving up hard-won shopping and dining energy on Madison Street to allow a dental practice is an idea that we oppose.

Finally, Lane’s interest in finding a location in town for a co-working space is a great one. This is a hot and simple concept. It brings entrepreneurs and small businesses into a common space where some services are shared, as are ideas and enthusiasm. It also brings midday life to Madison. Just don’t eat up retail space to accomplish this goal.

 About that viaduct

Like any decent American, we like it when money from the feds rains down on our little part of this great nation. We don’t even complain when it might seem frivolous — a want not a need. Heck, if the feds want to subsidize some fancy new street lighting or pay the bulk of street resurfacing, we’re up for it.

So we don’t get too upset when an infrastructure grant application gets denied by the fed. We get that there are too many requests and too little money. Typically we assume that another burg’s project is more worthy.

But has the president, or some higher up in the federal government, driven down Harlem lately?! Have they been bottlenecked at the Green Line viaduct, which is ancient, outmoded and badly dented?! This viaduct carries the heavy weight of the CTA, Metra and freight lines. It transverses the borders of three towns we love – Forest Park, Oak Park and River Forest. And it needs to be rebuilt.

These aren’t fancy paving bricks or superfluous fountains we want funding for. These are improvements that will speed traffic, increase productivity and lower blood pressures.

And all we want is a measly $20 million.

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