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Palos Town Square Retail Development Gets Preliminary Approval Nod

The Palos Heights Planning Unit Development Commission voted 7-1 Monday night to approve preliminary plans for a five building retail center at Route 83 and Harlem Avenue.

A long vacant corner of moved closer to development Monday night as a city commission approved a preliminary plan for the site. 

The northeast corner of Harlem Avenue and Route 83 once held a car dealership, almost held a high density mixed use development and a restaurant, retail and professional space. 

The Planning Unit Development Commission gave preliminary approval to developers with a 7-1 vote. More detailed plans about the aesthetics of the development, tenant categories and traffic issues would be ironed out in future hearings. 

Developer Tad Lagestee fielded questions and concerns from the eight committee members present and clarified his plans for the land and how the development would meet the city's needs and desires. 

"We are doing something that's simple, that's functional and that works," Lagestee said. "It is not too complex, or too dense with too many parking requirements or hoops to jump through."

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So far interest has been strong and a bank, restaurant, automotive center and retailers have been approached, Lagestee said. 

The preliminary plan does designate about 90 percent of the space as retail, however that number could change and a binding agreement would be made before final approval.  

Potential businesses for the site would attract local community members and fill a need in town. Lagestee remarked on the absence of a casual restaurant in Palos Heights with a seating component like Panera Bread or Five Guys.

The spaces would likely be filled by national companies. The preliminary plan does includes a bank, a decision some members cited as a possible issue.

"You should be prepared to come up with a plan to compensate the city and the residents for having that non-taxable business there, and if you do I think that would help move the process along," said Ald. Michael McGrogan, citing the city's agreement with where the bank paid the city for lost sales tax revenue.

Lagestee stressed that banks often serve as a stabilizing force for developments and would not be the focal point of the plans.

Aesthetically, the importance of finishing the buildings on all four sides with high-quality materials was discussed. Lagestee said the most likely design would include brick. 

The development is close to the soon to be built Cal-Sag Trail which includes links to Lake Katherine. Lagastee said that project was extremely exciting and he hoped to find ways to link the trail to the development while incorporating sustainable and native plant life. 

Developers already met with Gareth Blakesley, operations manager at Lake Katherine, to discuss ways to incorporate the nature center's mission into the development, Lagestee said.

A large swath of land east of the proposed development and around the Cal-Sag Channel is owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, and is in a leasing agreement with . Development of this parcel would hopefully include an examination of how that land could be better utilized, Lagestee said.  

Alderman Alan Fulkerson, the only dissenting vote, was firm in his belief that the project was not forward thinking enough for Palos Heights. He cited a desire to return to the plan that was presented five years ago by another developer that included a multi-story senior living facility among other mixed uses. 

"I think this is just a re-bake of everything that is already on the west side of Harlem Avenue and I don't think that's a good idea," Fulkerson said. 

He voiced his concern that the commission would let the economy dictate what would be feesible for that space and indicated that the land should remain undeveloped until a more ambitious mixed-use project is a possibility. 

Lagestee said that he would like to move ahead quickly with the project and begin construction by next spring. Although not required by ordnance, the plan now moves to the Planning and Zoning Committee for further discussion before it is presented to the full council. 

If you have questions about the planned development, leave them in the comments and we will do our best to answer them. 

HM June 12, 2012 at 02:26 PM
NO MORE BANKS!!! There are already SIX on Harlem avenue from 119th to 127th.
Billable Hours June 12, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Alderman Fulkerson is out of his mind. He is nothing but the outspoken voice of the mayor. The way alderman Fulkerson condescends and belittles residents of this city at our meetings is a disgrace! If being an alderman wasn't such a thankless job he wouldn't be re elected unopposed time after time. Senior living and a bank should not even be a consideration for this development. The existing senior living facilities in Palos aren't even at capacity so where is the need? As far as John and the rest of the owners of homes along 83 across the from the proposed development they need to get with the program already. This space is a focal point and an entrance area to our city. It is too valuable to leave undeveloped and left as a natural landscape. Sooner or later buildings will be constructed in a development that is hopefully conducive to our city.
John June 12, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I am fine with developing the previously developed area, but with all the empty space in the area I don't see a need to add more empty space... And take away green space. Are you saying you want to live in a concrete jungle? If so Chicago is where you should go.
John June 12, 2012 at 02:55 PM
I should add the idea was proposed on Facebook to do a riverwalk type development. That sounds like a great idea. I am not opposed to development from the 'not in my backyard' stand point. Trust me 83 produces enough noise and traffic now. I don't feel as though this development would add any. Provided them landscape it nicely I do not think it would change my view much either. I just hate to see us add more empty retail space. I believe the crown jewel of Palos Heights it the Old Palos section and that should be concentrated on. I know this would essentially be an extension of it and I agree that moving forward is important. But I think this is hastily put together and doesn't address the city's needs. Something fresh and creative needs to be put in this space.
Billable Hours June 12, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Yes John I moved to Palos in 2001 because I've made it my life's mission to convert our beautiful wooded lots here to a concrete jungle. You're right John we're in desperate need of more green space in Palos because we obviously don't have enough. I just noticed how our basketball and tennis courts have NO GREEN SPACE!!! I'll email Mike Leonard and have trees planted around the nets immediately. If that's not enough the rainforest is where you should go.
John June 12, 2012 at 03:12 PM
I have been trying to get a transfer to the rain forest but they don't have a reliable enough internet connection for me to maintain a VPN connection to get all my work (and internet ranting) done. So alas I am forced to stay where I am at. I am glad to hear of an involved resident that has lived in the community for over 10 years. I have not yet reached my second year and I love where I live more and more each day. My view on it, unless there is a great reason, why remove the existing green space? Palos Park and Heights seem to pride themselves on their greenery so it would seem as though they would choose to keep it unless there was a great reason to remove it. For example if we had a shortage of retail space, which we do not. A shortage of tax revenue, I admittedly do not keep very close tabs on this but I was under the impression we were doing alright. A shortage of basic needs, and while yes we do seem to have quite a few Italian restaurants (I agree with Marilyn, not complaining) there is a descent enough variety. We all are in agreement we don't need another bank nor a senior living facility. So what does this development bring to the table? Yes it cleanups up the corner, which has long been neglected and that is okay. But you shouldn't do something just to do it, you should do it to be the best, make an impact, shine, show off, be original, etc. Time to research more reliable internet in the rainforest!
Billable Hours June 12, 2012 at 03:13 PM
I agree with everything you just said, but yesterday was only a preliminary plan. Nothing has been hasily put together yet. If the final plan is unacceptable the residents of this town will speak up and fight for our community as we have time and time again!
John June 12, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Eh, it worries me that a preliminary approval could go 7-1. Sounds like how Rahm pushes stuff through in Chicago, where I used to live by the way. The alderman there are just rubber stamping and since I am still fairly new here I do not know if that is how it works here too.
Dan Lambert (Editor) June 12, 2012 at 03:28 PM
thanks for the discussion and for sharing your thoughts, everyone. I want to clarify a point about the commission who voted last night, I think it was a bit clearer in the previous article on the topic. The PUD Commission is made up of the appointed Plan Commission and the four aldermen who sit on the council's Planning and Zoning Committee. Eventually this will make its way to the full City Council where all eight alderman will vote.
Billable Hours June 12, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Again John I agree with you and welcome to Palos! This is just a preliminary plan which I hope gets the ball rolling toward a development we will all appreciate and enjoy. The vacant retail we have in town has been turned down by numerous large chain restaurants and stores. Retail is forever changed in this country. If a mens pants store opened up would you shop there? Probably not. If this development is done right hopefully we can land something special which will truly anchor this city. We won't know till we try!
John June 12, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Dan, Do you happen to have the breakdown of who is on that council? I ASSumed it was the 8 alderman that voted. Thanks for the clarification! I will go back and read your other article.
Dan Lambert (Editor) June 12, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Yes. The Planning and Zoning Committee is made up of aldermen Jack Clifford, Michael McGrogan, Alan Fulkerson and Jeff Key. The Plan Commission members present last night were Edward Stevens, William DeLeo, Jeff Barry and Michael Lombard. Fulkerson was the only no vote yesterday.
John June 12, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Thank you for the welcome. It is funny that you mention pants because I probably would. I am rather tall and lanky and have difficulty finding pants that fit properly. And that is enough about me. I do enjoy supporting Palos businesses whenever I can. That being said I am pretty sure I know what you are getting at and I agree. I do a lot of online shopping. But you cannot turn down the convenience of a store that is close by, even if I have to pay a little more. For example we buy most of our groceries at Jewel because it is the closest. It is too bad that the taxes are going to be .5 percent higher there (if I understand it correctly). I also love our ACE. I am not a fan of what RadioShack has become, but since it is so close I find myself in there from time to time. My parents live in EP and the pushed this redevelopment thing and they have a bunch of new empty stores and another bank. The residents were promised many things over the years and in the end I think the Village settled because they couldn't get what they wanted. I think quite a few existing businesses and residents were unhappy in the end. Eh, I should just give up on politics. :-)
Billable Hours June 12, 2012 at 03:45 PM
At the peak of the NorthPointe development mess I believe 3 aldermen (Knapp, McGrogen and Fulkerson) continued to vote for the tall nursing facility despite the rest of PUD commission rightly caving to the residents who didn't want it. Knapp is gone, but McGrogen and Fulkerson are two of the worst alderman we have. if you live in Old Palos, Fulkerson and Kamarski are our alderman.
John June 12, 2012 at 03:49 PM
NorthPointe was the one with the elaborate printed sign that wrapped the fence right? I live in Ward 2 so I guess that means I am in New Palos!
South side Native June 12, 2012 at 04:22 PM
We don't need more empty storefronts in Plaos Heights. Brick and mortar small retail is obslete.A Naperville type Riverwalk with an Omnimax theater,art film theater, spectacular children's museum or some other recreational activities to bring consumers to PH is what we need. No more banks,salons, medical offices.....there areWAY too many of those in PH now. Gotta wonder why an alderman would want an old folks home.
Chronicles of Bob June 12, 2012 at 05:49 PM
I would second that! I would invision a place where people can eat dinner, see a movie, relax, walk around on a nice path and so on... The crestwood theater is gross... Our tree lighting should be at a place like that during Christmas. However, I do love the current spot because I can't wait for the day one of our kids gets hit by a car on harlem. Of course you are going to have the morons that will be afraid of extra traffic (shhh black people)... I'm still pissed we don't have our rec center, new ball fields and pool... Still in awe that didn't pass. So depressing on the lack of vision.
mom June 13, 2012 at 02:17 AM
I agree there is a lack of vision but the coment about the kids getting hit by and a car and black people are out of line. Watch your kids and they will not be hit by a car. I think it is nice that the fire dept hosts the lighting of the tree. I also think the money spent on the silly library was a waste. the former library for thislittle town was just fine. If you want all the big amenities you may have to move some where like Naperville. Your taxes will be a heck of alot more that they are here . I have lived here for 22 years and my real estate taxes have tripled. It is sickening, so I do not long for the wonderful things you mentioned. I am content and blessed to live in sweet Old palos and enjoy my home and have enjoyed watching the kids grow up here.
Kris Mortovitz June 13, 2012 at 02:20 AM
I agree, NO MORE BANKS! We need a Caputos. And a River Walk, that links up with Lake Katherine.
Mary Kay Ballo June 13, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Oh, Kris, thank you for your comment. Great minds think alike. I've been saying this for years. Definitely NO MORE BANKS. A Caputos would be awesome. A "river walk" is a no-brainer. The property is right on the canal, there will be a new bike trail right there and it's connected to Lake Katherine nature preserve. How about a bike shop? A nice little "cafe" where you stop off on your bike ride and get lunch or a snack and something to drink? And PH is in dire need of a family-type restaurant (ala Bakers Square) that is open past 4:00.
Billable Hours June 13, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Mom maybe you are the one who needs to move. Chances are your children are already having their children. There has been a huge influx of youth into this city and we're spending our hard earned money! We're building and improving the homes in this city one by one! The problem is people like you who watch Golden Girl reruns and want nothing more than the status quo. Our recreation center is a fricking joke, our pool was almost closed and we deserve more than an art park surrounded by powerlines!!! So please go to our awesome library, take out a book on quilting cat sweaters and stay out of our improving this city way!
Chronicles of Bob June 13, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Ok mom, I've lived here for 35 year. What does that have to do with anything? I don't see anywhere how i was out of line. The library? Really? It was to small for todays educational needs. The place was old and out dated. Maybe we shouldhave go backa to painting on caves...I am sure you are one that said no to the new rec center/pool that this town desperately needs. The spot for the tree lighting is horrible. Having it feet from a major street and your answer is watch your kids? There are several better locations right now like the art park or the pavilion by the pool.
BEATING JJN AT NFL PICKS June 15, 2012 at 03:33 PM
A bank and/or nursing facility are out of the question!!! I would love a space where residents could spend an evening and enjoy the space. Southside Native gave several unique suggestions to consider. Plug those in with a Panera type restaurant and some retail and we may have a winner! Not only is this an entrance to our city, but it's the last lot of its kind here too! A development like the one on the NW will not do!
South side Native June 15, 2012 at 03:51 PM
We should all attend the first hearing of this project when it comes up before the city council....suggest to them we form a citizen's committe as an arm of the planning committee to explore getting investors to make a river walk a reality....they say they want one but no developer has approached them....well,in life, if you want to make it happen ,you have to go out and get it.
John June 15, 2012 at 03:54 PM
That sounds like a great idea.
Bob June 16, 2012 at 05:30 PM
I've got some questions that don't appear to be addessed in this story. First, is any "TIF" money going into this project from the Lake Katherine TIF? I seem to recall a push a few years ago to extend the Lake Katherine TIF to fund the develpment East of Harlem. This, of course, would be patently unfair to taxpayers East of Harlem in Palos CSD 118 and HS district 230 because we'd be deprived of tax revenues promised from the Lake Katherine TIF for development from which the districts would NEVER receive additional revenues. The other question is regarding municipal bond sales to support this project. We've just seen and incredibly corrupt and risky municipal financing scheme for a $63 million apartment and mixed use development in Orland Park near 143rd and Lagrange Rd. Is the developer intending to finance this out of his own pocket, or does he/she plan to try to get financing or loan guarantees from Palos Heights? I just can't see the banks financing this incredibly risky venture at affordable rates lower than "junk bond" status. SOMEONE surely has brought up these issues. Did I just miss them on the Patch, or has Dan just not geot around to them yet?
Dan Lambert (Editor) June 17, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Hi Bob, As is stated in my previous story on this issue, according to my conversations with Palos Heights' business development coordinator the existing TIF covers this parcel of land and the Tiffany Square Shopping Center on the other side of Harlem. For a time Lake Katherine was included in that TIF district, but it was amended to remove Lake Katherine from the TIF several years ago. There has been no talk of using municipal bond sales for this project. The developer is funding this project.
Bob June 17, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Dan, thanks for the clarification. I tend to be a little suspicious regarding funding of this kind of project because its pretty rare for such a project to be completely privately funded. Has there been any vetting of the developer to ensure that he has sufficient credit to pull this off? The typical routine is that a developer gets the whole commuity worked up. gets the municipality zoning it to move forward, then thety get the sob story, "Gee if only we could get you guaranteeing this loan, we could really get this moving forward." Did you do a story about the developer and how he's pulled this kind of project off successfully before? Sorry if I missed it.
Melinda Moore June 18, 2012 at 01:03 AM
I wish we could get something for kids and teens do to - an arcade, small movie theater, mini golf course, as well as shopping. Believe it or not, young people live here too. And by the way, I think the Palos Height Library Board did a terrific job on the renovated library. We love to spend time there and can't wait to visit the teen room.
South side Native June 26, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Attend the meeting tonight,June 26 -7:00pm at the Palos Heights City Hall.

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