The Riverside Village Board will seek a moratorium on zoning approvals and licenses for non-sales tax generating businesses along a portion of Harlem Avenue near 26th Street as officials work to create a retail corridor that can take advantage of the new Costco development nearby.
The moratorium should be in place sometime this fall, following a public hearing by the Plan Commission, probably in October, and a vote by village trustees, who agreed Monday to pursue it.
“It’d be an opportunity for us to focus on one of the only areas in our village that has a substantial opportunity for retail sales tax generating properties,” said Village President Ben Sells during a discussion of the issue at the board’s Sept. 5 meeting.
“If there’s any place in our village right now where that discussion can be focused it’s this particular Harlem North Corridor.”
The Harlem North Corridor is being defined as Harlem Avenue from 26th Street to the Marathon Gas Station just south of Longcommon Road. But at the heart of the corridor are three parcels of land — the vacant former Sara Lee outlet store, a dry cleaning business and a strip mall.
If the three parcels can be combined, it could be turned into a single retail development.
Village Manager Peter Scalera told the Landmark in a separate interview that he has been working with the owners of all three properties to see whether the three properties can be combined in order to create one large commercial development.
“If any development is to take place on that [land] it has to be done in conjunction with all three property owners,” said Scalera.
All three property owners have told Scalera they are interested in selling; both the dry cleaning business and the strip mall are presently for sale.
Earlier this year, said Scalera, he separately had approached both the Starbucks and Potbelly Sandwich Shop chains about purchasing all three parcels and building one of their stores as the anchor for a single development. Starbucks had previously pitched building a store on the former Sara Lee property back in 2007, but it fell through when the economy tanked.
Both chains eventually declined to follow through on the plan. Scalera said he has also approached Panera Bread and Corner Bakery about the properties.
“I think something like that would do really well there, especially with Costco coming in,” said Scalera. “I’m trying to call whatever franchise chain I can to attract attention to that location to create a single development for that site.”
Once a moratorium is in place — one which likely would last for six months — the Plan Commission would hold more hearings about rezoning the corridor or establishing a retail overlay district there, which would help ensure retail business development there.
The Plan Commission would then present its recommendations to the village board, which would vote on whether or not to approve them.
The moratorium and whatever zoning changes are made would not affect businesses presently leasing space there. Nor would it affect the lease TitleMax has inked for the former Sara Lee property.
However, the changes would help direct future development and affect what businesses might be able to lease space there.
Asked how the condominium property between the 7-Eleven gas station at 26th Street and the Canadian National Railroad line might fit into a retail overlay district, Scalera said the property would be “in the mix” of future discussions.
“The review would also look at what to do with the residential building,” Scalera said. “Maybe we approach those owners and see if they are interested in selling. We might be able to use that property as a carrot for someone to come in and put commercial on that site.”