Forest Park has two large retail vacancies on Harlem Avenue at the moment. We reported this week that the Bed Bath & Beyond store at Harlem and Washington will fall victim to the quite stunning collapse and possible bankruptcy of the longtime home goods chain. The CVS Pharmacy at Harlem and Brown, meanwhile, has been shuttered since Aug. 2021. And as we report today, the Planning & Zoning Commission will meet in two weeks to consider an application to open a cannabis dispensary on the CVS site.
Two opportunities for the village to shine as prime parcels on heavily trafficked Harlem Avenue do not open regularly.
In one of the more disingenuous comments we’ve heard from the mouth of Mayor Rory Hoskins, the mayor told our Igor Studenkov that he did not have a preference for the future use of the CVS site and had no comment on the cannabis applicant.
Hoskins, to his credit in our view, has been chasing after cannabis for Forest Park since day one in office. He cozied up to a cannabis company from the East Coast early with hopes they’d win the pot lottery rather ineptly managed by the state of Illinois. That did not pan out. But Hoskins has rolled out the welcome mat for pot infusion, growing and transportation uses on Industrial Drive.
The gravy train though for a small municipality is a dispensary and the plump local sales tax revenues it gathers and shares.
We would expect planning and zoning to sign off quickly on Feb. 21 and for the village council to rubber stamp that application in short order. The CVS is the perfect location for a dispensary. On a major street. Adjacent to multiple public transit lines. And with a good-sized parking lot.
Make this happen.
Meanwhile at Bed Bath & Beyond, Hoskins’ early take is that another retailer should be the target. We’re not so certain. The future of big box retail is in rapid decline. There should be consideration, at least, of taking this large parcel, with an oversized parking lot built for the National Tea grocery store it originally housed, and converting it some version of mixed use.
Oak Park has certainly proved, albeit in a more favorable macro-economic moment, that midrise to high-rise apartment housing can succeed on Harlem near the public transit hub. We’re not suggesting 21 stories, but a building of 6-7 stories would not be out of place in this location.
The property tax revenues would be steady and not subject to retail whims.
Time at least to have an open mind for this parcel.