By Nona Tepper
Following approval by the Forest Park Village Council, developer Carefree Development LLC will soon start building senior apartments, a restaurant, healthcare provider and more at 7228 Circle Ave., with development stretching from the longtime home of Kevil's bar and restaurant to 7234 Circle Ave.
Council members approved Carefree's plan for Forest Oaks Senior Apartments on April 23. Carefree plans to get shovels in the ground by mid-June, and have the project finished by the same time next year. While many senior housing developers are nonprofits, carefree is a for-profit entity.
"With the development gone up in Oak Park, and the high-rise going up at Harlem and South Boulevard, this area's really changing for the positive," said Phil Moeller, president of Oak Park-based Carefree. "There's nothing around like it in the entire area; there's a need for this in the village."
Forest Oaks will consist of five stories of senior housing and accommodations, with commercial offerings on the 4,743-square-foot ground floor and 56 age- and income-restricted apartments on the ascending four. The complex will feature one- and two-bedroom apartments with in-unit laundry machines and balconies. The majority of two-bedroom units are designed as master suites and come with an adjoining bathroom. Common areas include a lobby, dining room, multiple lounges, library, exercise room and computer lab. The second floor will also have a patio and barbecue center.
Occupancy will be restricted to seniors age 55 and older who have an annual income of less than $38,000. Carefree has also submitted 15 applications to the Housing Authority of Cook County for rental subsidies. If Carefree's applications are approved, 15 apartments at Forest Oaks will be priced for seniors at no more than 30 percent of their income.
"What we're fighting is [the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] has stopped issuing subsidies, but we'll just hang in there and see what happens," Moeller said. "Even without the subsidies, our rents are extremely conservative; they're very low, so most seniors in the village would be able to afford the rent."
Moeller cited U.S. Census Bureau data indicating about 1,000 seniors in Forest Park would be eligible to live in Forest Oaks, where one-bedroom units will cost between $800 and $900 per month and two-bedroom units will cost between $930 and $1,080 monthly. He said Forest Park residents would be given housing priority although he also expects residents from nearby Oak Park and River Forest will be interested in living in the building too. Interested applicants should contact Carefree at housingseniors.com.
Forest Oak's first floor will feature a restaurant that Moeller described as "quality, but not super expensive" with white linens, a lounge and piano bar and general American cuisine like steak. Next to the restaurant, he said Forest Oaks will house a home health-care provider likely from the Evergreen Park-based DK Healthcare Services Inc. If there is enough space, Forest Oaks could also feature a retail shop of about 1,500 square feet, but "it's hard to tell what's going to happen there because it's so early," he said.
The development will feature 43 parking spaces, said Steve Glinke, director of the Forest Park Department of Public Health at the village council meeting last week. He said Carefree had also 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.
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