7216 Circle Ave., Forest Park | Google Maps

A cannabis dispensary is looking to set up shop at the former Forest Park CVS store at 7216 Circle Ave., near the three-way Oak Park/Forest Park/River Forest border and across the street from Green Line Harlem CTA station and Oak Park Metra station. 

According to Illinois Secretary of State records, the Emerald Coast LLC has four owners – Justin Frankel of Katohan, N.Y., Alan Dordek of Wilmette, Tyrone Harris of Bellwood, and Mathew Joseph Hagglund of Normal, IL. Emerald Coast was part of the group of cannabis dispensary applicants that sued the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations (IDFRR) in August 2021, arguing that they were unfairly denied spots in the provisional dispensary license lottery. The group withdrew their lawsuit on Aug. 11, and Emerald Coast got two conditional dispensary licenses on July 22, 2022.

The business will go before the Forest Park Planning & Zoning Commission on Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. From there, it will be up to the Forest Park Village Council to decide whether to approve its application, which it could potentially do as early as Feb. 27. 

The Forest Park CVS closed in August 2021, as part of the broader effort to close underperforming stores. The CVS inside the nearby Target in Oak Park, 1129 Lake St., remained open. 

The dispensary would benefit from its proximity to Oak Park and River Forest, as well as its proximity to the CTA/Metra station that doubles as a hub for local CTA and Pace buses. The CVS and the surrounding parking lots are owned by River Forest-based Bern Reality. 

The company did not respond to the requests for comment by deadline.

Emerald Coast’s licenses allow it to open cannabis dispensaries in parts of the Chicagoland region where such businesses are allowed. According to IDFRR, the company has 180 days, or about six months, to secure a location and get any zoning approvals it may need to operate at this location. It will also need to submit floor plans to IDFRR and request an inspection. The department will only issue a full-fledged adult use cannabis license once those steps are complete.

Under current village regulations, all cannabis-related businesses are allowed by right in industrial areas, but they need to get a Special Use permit if they want to open in a commercial area.  This means that the Planning & Zoning Commission must review Emerald Coast’s application and recommend either approval or denial, with the village council making the final decision. 

Mayor Rory Hoskins declined to comment on the applicant, and whether he has any preferences for the site.

IDFRR is responsible for issuing temporary, conditional licenses that allow cannabis businesses to get up and running. It is up to the Illinois Department of Agriculture to determine whether they get long-term licenses. The conditional licenses are given out in a lottery, with a separate lottery for “social equity justice involved” applicants. While the exact criteria changed over the years, the idea was to give a leg up to veteran and/or minority applicants and applicants who were previously arrested for cannabis-related offenses.

Emerald Coast had alleged in its suit that the department didn’t take the fact that Hagglund and Dordek are veterans into account. The parties dropped the suit before the case could go to trial. 

Frankel is Executive Vice-President of Ventures at LPC Group real estate firm. According to his corporate bio, he was previously a CEO of Bayside Corporation, “a publicly traded crypto-asset and blockchain infrastructure company.” In 2021, he applied for a medical cannabis dispensary license in Lorain, Ohio. 

Frankel didn’t respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment by deadline.

State of cannabis businesses in Forest Park

Forest Park doesn’t have any cannabis dispensaries, though not for the lack of trying. Karuna Ventures, which looked to open a facility at 1401 Circle Ave., applied for a cannabis dispensary license, as well as craft growth and cannabis infuser licenses. It received the infuser license in 2021, allowing it to extract oil from cannabis plants, put that oil in products such as edibles and electric vapor pens, package the products and distribute them to dispensaries. 

In 2022, Mint IL LLC got a license to open a cannabis cultivation plant at 7550 Industrial Dr. and got a go-ahead to start construction. And Alliance Transport Group will operate a cannabis transportation business out of a warehouse building at 1800 Desplaines Ave.

Alliance co-owner James Atkins previously told the Review that his business struggled to get off the ground because cannabis businesses weren’t using their services, using their own private transportation services instead.

Mint co-owner Omar Fakhouri previously told the Review that supply chain issues hampered his ability to get the plant up and running. He also applied to open a dispensary in Riverside, at 2710 S. Harlem Ave., but the application for the dispensary license at that site ran into repeated delays, leading property owner Milad Nourahmadi to pull the sales agreement in December 2022.