Construction crews will soon start turning a vacant lot and two empty taverns in Forest Park into major developments, following action by the village council on Monday.

The vacant lot at Harlem, 7201 Madison St., will become a retail strip center; the longtime home of Kevil’s bar and restaurant, 7228 Circle Avenue, will become a five-story, mixed-use development; and 7652 Madison, formerly occupied by Irish taverns Brian Boru’s and Molly Malone’s, will become a four-story, mixed-use development.

The village council voted 4-0 to accept the recommendations of the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Commission, grant approval for all three projects, and zoning variations related to the mixed-use developments. Commissioner Rachell Entler was absent.

Consideration of the project at 7652 Madison by the Northbrook-based Madison Avenue Real Estate Group, which is managed by Chicago White Sox and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and his longtime business partner Robert Judelson, generated the interest of two groups attending Monday’s meeting.

One group of construction union supporters, three of whom spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, were concerned with safety procedures involving the Madison Group and one of its preferred contractors, Vivify Construction. They also advocated hiring union members and Forest Park residents for the projects.

Another group of neighbors expressed concerns about parking and the alley behind 7652 Madison although none of them addressed the council during the public comment portion, apparently because they were unaware of the requirement to register before the meeting to be allowed the opportunity to address the council.

Forest Park resident Bridget Lane also raised concerns about the design of the proposed building, saying it is “not a good fit.”

Lane, who serves as economic development consultant to the village through her employer, Business Districts Inc. of Evanston, was speaking as a resident.

She specifically objected to the 15-foot height of the proposed building’s first floor, contending that other similar mixed-use developments nearby have 10-foot-high first floors.

“It needs to enhance the environment,” Lane said. “It seems like an easy fix.”

Prior to casting his vote, Commissioner Tom Mannix said he hoped village staff would consider Lane’s suggestions. He also said he hoped the developer would hire “good union guys who live in town” but noted the village cannot enforce such requirements since Forest Park is not a home-rule municipality.

Steve Glinke, director of public health and safety, said it is unusual for three projects to be considered at the same time.

“We tried to line all three projects up so the village council, zoning board and planning commission could address all three at once,” he explained. “All three were thoughtfully considered and passed muster. 

“We’re really excited. This is good, solid development and it’s good for the village.”

Glinke said he anticipates demolition work to start on the mixed-use developments 4-6 weeks after developers close on their purchases. Work on the retail strip center is expected to start sooner.

Calderone said he expects work on the mixed-use developments to be complete in less than a year, sooner for the retail strip center.

Owner Jay Javors proposes building a 5,800-square-foot retail strip center with off-street parking on the 20,968-square-foot vacant lot at 7201 Madison, which Glinke estimates has been vacant for at least 10 years. Village Administrator Tim Gillian said the developer is unsure at this point what exactly will be there and how many storefronts will be included.

At 7228 Circle, Carefree Development LLC proposes constructing Forest Oaks Senior Apartments, a building with 4,743 square feet of ground floor commercial space and four floors of 56 age-restricted residential units. The variation reduces the number of required parking spaces from 112 to 43, but Glinke said the senior citizens expected to reside there are less likely to own cars. He also noted the developer has arranged to lease parking in a lot across the street and arranged for residents and visitors to use the parking lot of nearby Circle Bowl after hours.

The Michigan Avenue group proposes constructing a four-story building with 2,933 square feet of ground floor commercial space and three floors of 36 residential units at 7652 Madison, on the lots between Dunkin Donuts and Mugsy’s. Balconies will accompany apartments, and bike racks will be incorporated into the final design. Forty enclosed parking spaces will also be featured on the ground floor.

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