The North Riverside Board of Trustees is expected to cast aside its aversion to a bank, which does not provide sales taxes to the city, to allow a small, bank-dominated retail strip to replace the former truck repair facility at Cermak Road and Desplaines Avenue.
The village uses sales taxes on retail areas such as the North Riverside Park Mall to keep property taxes low. To encourage only businesses that pay this tax, the village has a law preventing new bank construction.
However, Mayor Richard Scheck said at an April 4 joint village Planning Commission/Zoning Board of Appeals meeting that an exception can be made in the case of 7929 Cermak Road.
He said the village board will pass an ordinance at its April 16 meeting to overlook the no-bank law for this property. Both the commission and the Board of Appeals recommended approval of the plan to the village board.
“I think this is a good plan,” Scheck said as he presented the development at the joint meeting. “We want to beautify this site, and make sure the residents’ concerns are addressed.”
Berwyn Realtor Mary Ellen Scatchell bought the site, with the repair garage still mostly intact, in March 2005 for $715,000. She hired developer Bob Svoboda, and they have worked with the village to update the site, including spending about $250,000 to remove contaminated soil from a leaking 55-gallon drum.
The developer’s plans are to renovate the existing 6,258-square-foot building on the site, which village officials believe is structurally sound, into three to four passive retail uses. Possible tenants include a bank (with a drive-thru window), a salon and medical offices.
Another 1,100-square-foot building, which will house another tenant, will be built just to the west of the existing structure. No tenants have been signed yet for the site, said the developer.
Scheck said the retail uses must be passive to keep parking down at the site. There will be only 35 parking spaces.
Also, entering and exiting rules the parking area will be strictly enforced, the mayor said. There will be no left turns going from the site onto Desplaines, a boulevard, or Cermak Road, a dangerous place to turn in traffic. However, visitors will be able to leave onto Keystone Avenue, and turn left onto Cermak from Keystone.
Svoboda told The Landmark that it will likely cost $2 million to get the site ready, which includes landscaping and putting together a pleasant, modern retail facade on the buildings, including on the side facing the residents to the south.
“I’m really excited,” Scatchell said. “I could have invested in other communities, but I think North Riverside is wonderful.”
A handful of the facility’s residential neighbors, who gathered at the meeting, said they are looking forward to a better development on the site, but hope the parking doesn’t get out of control. The homeowners said they already have nearby apartment owners parking in front of their houses.
“For three to five years, we’ve just had an eyesore at the corner,” as the building sat vacant, said Keystone Avenue resident Mark Beimal. “This new building should look much better.”
Scheck said that more parking will be opened up along Keystone Avenue. Also, he said, the village has purchased a long strip of railroad land along Traube Street for $121,000 that can be turned into more residential parking. The new spaces could go all the way east to Hainsworth Avenue, adding up to 300 new parking spots, but Scheck said the village probably won’t use all the land for parking.
“I know there’s a lot of people who like to walk their dogs on that strip,” the mayor said.