The spaces are bookends on either side of the Forest Park Mall. And now they are the flip sides of the coin in determining the future of this retail complex. To the west end is the future home of HOBO, a vibrant, if not high end, home supply store. It was announced just last week as the replacement for the long vacant Kmart store. On the east end is the location, for only the next several weeks, of Ultra Foods, whose parent company was just sold. The new proprietor promptly announced the shuttering of several Ultra locations.
These are very hard times for retailers and for the landlords who house them. The Sears/Kmart combo is now publicly stating in government filings that its future is uncertain. And Ultra is the second major grocery store in our area to announce its closing this month — the Meijer store on Cermak Road is also done for.
Two immediate thoughts: Village Administrator Tim Gillian told the Review last week that Ultra was good for $130,000 annually in sales tax revenue. So just as Hobo comes back on line, Ultra’s sales taxes will evaporate. That eliminates the upside. The old and lucrative Chevy dealership at Desplaines also remains empty, just an overflow parking lot for a dealer down the street.
Currently traffic in front of the Forest Park mall is all balled up as the village and state do a major upgrade to Roosevelt Road. The need is real. But the work is intended to spark a renewal and re-imagining of this key commercial corridor in Forest Park. The likelihood that a major portion of that future is retail seems less probable.
No one is at fault here. The forces at work on retail are massive and worldwide. But the challenges play out right at our front door.
Move forward on Welcoming
Monday night, a public forum will be held on the proposed Welcoming Village/Sanctuary City ordinance for Forest Park. Two organizations are sponsoring the event at the Forest Park Eagles Hall, 446 Hannah Ave., 6:30 to 8 p.m.
This is a positive effort to foster discussion on a notable public issue. The topic has been making slow headway at the village council and in its new Diversity Committee. But more honest talk is needed and more speed on the topic would be welcome.
Unwelcoming is the reality motivating this public event, which is being hosted by Forest Park Town Hall, a Facebook site founded by Chris Harris, a nemesis of Mayor Anthony Calderone. The second host is the Suburban Unity Alliance, a progressive activist group, which had its start in a Forest Park-based protest.
The need for this ordinance to protect the rights of our neighbors from heavy-handed immigration efforts undertaken by the Trump administration is straightforward. And as the mayor of Berwyn said earlier this month, as his town enthusiastically became a Welcoming City, until Washington finally finds a political solution to the complex issues of immigration, then it is left to towns like ours to protect our neighbors.
Forest Park should join Berwyn, Oak Park, and our Proviso high schools in leading on this issue. It is time for action.