As we noted last week, Forest Park and its mayor, Rory Hoskins, have been pursuing certainly the tax revenue and maybe the panache of having a cannabis dispensary in town since its sale became legal in the state of Illinois.
The ride has been bumpy, in part because the state’s rollout of procedures for granting these precious licenses was bumpy. But Forest Park has persevered, and now, somewhat remarkably, it seems the village is about to land not one but two such businesses.
Last week we reported on plans to bring a dispensary to what turns out to be a portion of the empty CVS on Harlem near the el viaduct. Today our Igor Studenkov adds some reporting on those plans.
But we also report on the village council’s decision Monday night to shortcut zoning processes to allow a dispensary on Madison Street by right. And further, the location of the expected dispensary is Doc Ryan’s, one of the street’s iconic drinking destinations. The bar announced on social media over the weekend that it will close on March 31. Its owners held out the possibility it may reopen elsewhere in town. We wouldn’t hold out much hope as the arrival of pot in Forest Park dovetails neatly, if ironically, with an ongoing effort to reduce liquor licenses on Madison Street.
It’s a brave new world. The local tax revenues from cannabis dispensaries are game-changers for a small town like Forest Park. Multiply that by two.
That Harlem viaduct
In a moment when America is thankfully flush with infrastructure funding, it is good to see our local communities with their collective hands out to fund rebuilding the nagging bottleneck that is the railroad bridge at Harlem Avenue and South Boulevard.
Built more than a century ago, this viaduct is well past a simple definition of obsolescence. It carries both freight and commuter traffic up top and jams up auto, truck, pedestrian and bicycle traffic down below. It is too narrow. It is too low.
Our three villages of Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest have been cooperatively banging their heads on its concrete wall for well more than a decade with nothing to show for it. Now in this moment of infrastructure plenty, the tri-villages are trying a new tactic and are jointly hiring a transit consultant with some specialization in shaking money loose from government entities. The cost is low – just $15,000 split among the villages – and the payoff could be substantial. The ask of the new Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) will be $25 million against an estimated rebuilding cost of $34.6 million.
The other ace in our collective pocket would be our local connections to Springfield power by the names of Speaker Chris Welch, Senate President Don Harmon and Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford. Two Democratic U.S. senators and a Democratic president also won’t hurt.
Outside of the inevitable rebuilding of the Ike, these communities do not have a more immediate transit challenge than this viaduct. Good for the three villages for keeping at this.