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Heights Council Shoots Down Palos Town Square Development

Aldermen voted 4-3 Tuesday night against the preliminary plan for a proposed development on Harlem Avenue and Route 83.

After sailing through three previous votes, the Palos Town Square development was killed Tuesday night with a razor thin margin.

voted 4-3 not to approve the preliminary plan for the six-building retail development at Harlem Avenue and Route 83, effectively killing the project.  

Developer Lagestee-Mulder planned to build a six-building development on the long empty corner that would possibly include a restaurant, auto repair shop and most controversially -- a bank. 

The preliminary plan passed through the , the and an initial City Council vote. The plan would have to filter through the same process should the developer attempt to try again, a scenario that is unlikely.

At the last council meeting aldermen voted to approve the drafting of the motion to approve in a 7-1 vote.  

The preliminary plan was just that. The council would have maintained the power to force changes or vote down the project outright should it have made it to the final plan stage. 

"They didn't even give [the developer] a chance," Alderman Jack Clifford said after the meeting. Clifford appeared visibly frustrated with his fellow alderman after the meeting adjourned. 

The vote was close. Aldermen Jeff Prestinario, Jeff Key and Jack Clifford voted to approve, while aldermen Bob Basso, Alan Fulkerson, Dolores Kramarski and Jerry McGovern voted 'no'. 

Alderman Michael McGorgan, who had thrice voted for the plan in previous meetings, was absent. 

For the most part the addition of another bank, proposed to sit at the corner of Harlem Avenue and Route 83, was the major sticking point for the dissenters. 

"[Residents] don’t want to see another bank in town," Kramarski said. "I don’t think something is better than nothing."

Prestinario, who voted in favor of moving the process forward, also expressed apprehension about the placement of the bank. However, he felt that the exact location could be negotiated in subsequent steps along the final approval process.

Basso was critical of the entire process and voiced his concerns about the notion of approving preliminary plans without exact details.

"The more times we approve these stages the closer we get to that project looking exactly like it does on that preliminary proposal,” Basso said. "I don’t see any real connectivity to the canal, or to Lake Katherine."

Mayor Bob Straz countered that those were issues that have already been discussed and would appear on the next set of plans submitted to the city and would be discussed during the final approval process.

Straz also reminded aldermen that the land has been vacant for 12 years. After the meeting he remarked that banks are a common anchor for many retail developments because they provide a hearty injection of capital into developments and are often long-term well maintained tenants.

Theoretically, the developers could resubmit the plan for consideration, but it would have to move through all approval steps of the process once again. Straz was doubtful that would happen.

Patch will have continued coverage of the aftermath of the vote. 

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jason July 18, 2012 at 02:03 PM
We don't need a nother bank we have enough to choke a horse
South side Native July 18, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Kudos to the aldermen voting it down. Gotta wonder why the yay aldermen want this development ... What's in it for them?
South side Native July 18, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Ok Mayor Straz....just put anything there because it's been empty for twelve years. The message being sent by residents is: don't put up bricks and mortar to fill the space.
South side Native July 18, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Thank you Alderman Basso !!!!
Bob July 18, 2012 at 02:32 PM
"[Residents] don’t want to see another bank in town," Kramarski said. "I don’t think something is better than nothing." This makes absolutely no sense from a resource and tax base perspective. There's very little objectionable about banks. They don't create smells like a restaurant or rowdy and violent customers like a bar. They don't create problems by having customers park in neighborhood streets. Their customers are in and out. They'll likely pay $20,000 to $30,000 annually to local municipalities and to help schools, and banks are typically good corporate citizens. Financial service business is one of the top priorities for any revenue and community growth plans, as well as for convenience of citizens. Rejecting financial service development make no sense, EXCEPT, of course, to the existing banks in town which would prefer not to have the additional competition. I wonder how much they've contributed to the negative alderman's campaign funds?LOL
John July 18, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Bravo to the alderman for listening to the residents...
jaime July 18, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Cuz it looks WAY better as an empty overgrown lot....yuck
BEATING JJN AT NFL PICKS July 18, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Now that there's a pattern of what is and isn't expected for this site, I'm cautiously optimistic the next plan will be something we can all be excited about. I just hope it's sooner than later!
South side Native July 18, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Maybe an inlaw,,niece,uncle,brother,son or best friend of someone has a vested interest in the development. And as long as TIF districts are included no bank or other occupant will help the municipality or schools or first responders for many,many years and then they may leave when the tax break ends. Not good for Palos Heights.
South side Native July 18, 2012 at 03:04 PM
So empty retail buildings look better ....hmmm.
John July 18, 2012 at 03:44 PM
This is a complex issue. The existing empty spaces are not desireable as they are over priced and out of date. I would like those filled before they build but realize that those need to be torn down and rebuilt before anything sticks there. If they just took down the fence at 83 and Harlem it would look 10x better. I look forward to a new proposal that has more vision, less banks, and incorporates the area a little better.
Chronicles of Bob July 18, 2012 at 04:39 PM
I agree John. Just as I was for my taxes going up 150 or so to build a rec center/pool, (which still annoys me that it was voted down) I would be in for the same type of bonds to subsidize the renovation of harlem. Now based on what I have heard and the current state of those builings and parking lots (baumans side) the owner would have to go first. I said before, there is no reason that it can't be successful. Not saying its easy, but the excuses that this town can't support certain types of businesses is not valid to me.
John July 18, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Yup, just a bunch of slumlords.
Dan Lambert (Editor) July 18, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Thanks for the good discussion everyone.
Mary Kay Ballo July 18, 2012 at 07:19 PM
I wondered how long it would take for the city to run this guy out of town. They surprised me at the speed. Is this some kind of record?
John July 18, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Dan are you allowed to chime in with your opinion?
Dan Lambert (Editor) July 18, 2012 at 08:38 PM
John, I try to keep my opinion out of stories like this. It makes it easier to report on all aspects fairly. It is however my job to provide context and analysis of moves like this. It has been made very clear by this vote, and others in the past year, that the idea of more banks in town is a dead end for several aldermen. I hear the same sentiment from residents all the time. The counterpoint to that is developers need to make money, and need assurances that the development would be profitable. Banks pay more per sq. foot than pretty much any other business and they are often long term tenants that provide financial security to developers. Everyone has thoughts and opinions about what the city needs and should try to attract. I'm more than happy to allow Patch to be used as a sounding board for those discussions. I think good things come when residents talk. John you are right in that this is a complicated issue. All sorts of factors go into a business' decision to set up shop in a town. Things like available space (the Harlem Avenue issues you mentioned included), traffic patterns, population density, demographics and proximity to other retail areas are all considered by business owners. Even more so when you talk about national chains. I think a big issue Palos Heights faces is that the retail lanscape changed and the space available in town stayed the same. How to address that is a complicated question that requires a big picture look at what this town wants.
Michael Walsh July 23, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Whatever happened to less government? Isn't Palos Heights a Republican town? Since when is it a good idea for government officials to decide what businesses should open. What happenned to the free market. If Palos Heights doesn't need another bank then it will get no customers and it will close. Is that not how capitalism works?
Billable Hours July 24, 2012 at 01:01 AM
The elected officials are actually representing what the residents have overwhemlingly stated over and over and over again on what we want for that corner. What a fricking concept!!!! I've seen enough free market and all the store closings up and down Harlem Ave to last me a lifetime!

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