Riverside began its quest to find someone with a vision to improve a derelict stretch of Harlem Avenue between Berkeley and Longcommon roads, issuing a request for qualifications and proposals to developers late last week.
According to the document, which was released July 15, the village is seeking a developer or development team to redevelop the land “in a manner that enhances the overall character of the village and surrounding areas, while providing services or goods that will enhance the quality of life for residents.”
The development site includes three separate parcels covering about 35,000 square feet with about 270 feet fronting Harlem Avenue. The village is a player in steering the development because it has a contract on the center property at 2710 Harlem Ave., a shuttered dry cleaners on a 50-by-125-foot lot.
Riverside is in the midst of doing an environmental review of the property, which does have a no-further-remediation letter from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. If the review comes back clean, Riverside will move forward with buying the property.
The RFP document also reveals that the owner of the property at 2704 Harlem Ave., which most recently housed a title loan business that suddenly moved out in the middle of its lease earlier this year, has expressed interest in including that parcel in any redevelopment project.
The parcel at 2704 Harlem Ave., which is the northernmost of the three, measures 125 by 125 feet. It has been considered for redevelopment as recently as 2008, when Starbucks planned a store there. That project evaporated during the real estate crash of 2008.
Trickier will be assembling the southernmost of the three parcels, an oddly-shaped, roughly 100-by-125-foot property that houses a mostly empty strip mall. The strip mall property has a new private buyer under contract.
Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances told the Landmark on Monday that she had not talked to the prospective buyer yet but had approached the real estate broker to inform him of the village’s vision.
According to Frances, the new buyer has some sort of plan to attract professional services tenants to the property. Frances said the village would do what it could to help facilitate discussion between the new owner of the strip mall and any potential developer for the site.
The RFP considers the possibility that the strip mall site won’t be part of a redevelopment, and states that the dry cleaner site could be used as parking for a new development at 2704 Harlem Ave.
In addition, the RFP notes that the village would consider developments that include “all or portions of sites west” of the development properties “if the scale of the project warrants their inclusion” and that “developers would need to explore this option with the property owners.”
While the village owns an alley immediately west of the strip mall and dry cleaner properties, the document appears to also contemplate the possibility of a developer including residential properties west of the Harlem Avenue parcels.
Proposals are due back to the village by Aug. 24. At that point, said Frances, staff would seek input from the Riverside Economic Development Commission and the village board before moving ahead with a developer.