For years it has sat, an empty space that for a time was the site of some big plans, but became primarily known as a development that never was.
That image could change Monday night if plans for a new multi-building retail development on the northeast corner of Harlem Avenue and College Drive is given a thumbs up the Palos Heights Planning Unit Development Commission.
Any plans that are presented tonight are preliminary. A much more comprehensive plan would still be required to be presented to the City Council for approval.
What It Would Look Like
The site is still under contract, so it has not been officially sold. However, commercial real estate and development firm Lagestee-Mulder plans to purchase the land and construct five new buildings and name the development Palos Town Square.
A FOIA request for a rendering of the proposed development submitted by Palos Patch is still pending.
As detailed in a preliminary rendering of the site, the five proposed buildings would all be one-story. The first proposal detailed a possible bank, auto repair shop and an 18,000 square foot retail store among possible tenants. No businesses have officially signed on and the exact possible tenants have not been disclosed.
"[The developer] said that he has had a lot of positive reception from people and from a handful of users who are interested," said Palos Heights' community development coordinator Marisa Kolman.
The early plans are not yet detailed enough to provide an accurate glimpse into the overall aesthetics of the proposed development. That is something Mayor Robert Straz sees as an important component of the project.
"We want to make sure whatever goes in there is up to the quality we want in town," Straz said.
Lagestee-Mulder has developed numberous properties in the south suburbs including Mokena Town Square.
The process for the project's approval begins tonight, where initial feedback will be offered and concerns raised.
"He wants that preliminary OK that the city might be interested in approving it," Kolman said.
The Planning Unit Development Commission includes elected aldermen who sit on the Planning and Zoning Committee and the members of the Plan Commission, who are appointed.
The development would be included in a TIF district that also includes the Tiffany Square Shopping Center across Harlem Avenue. The developer is requesting to use TIF funds for the project, Kolman said.
In simple terms, TIF districts allow municipalities to redirect property tax revenue into the redevelopment of the designated district. TIF districts do not cause property taxes to rise, but instead freeze the amount taxing bodies collect from that district at a set number and then all revenues collected above that amount can be redirected to fund development.
The city controls when and how all of the TIF money is paid out. Generally, exact agreements are put into place should TIF money be distributed. Kolman said it would not be allowed, for example, for the developer to build only a bank and then nothing else.
"We are going to have it phased and required that in order to use the TIF funds for the development you have to produce other tenants," Kolman said.
The proposal is much less ambitious than the one alderman debated over several years ago. At that time the development known as NorthPointe went through several incarnations, including at one time a multi-story senior living facility. After plans were eventually scaled back, the real estate bubble burst and movement on the site stalled. It was put up for sale last spring.
The public hearing will be held Monday, June 11, at 7 p.m. at the Palos Heights City Administration Center.