marijuana medical leaf in hand, cannabis cultivation. close-up background

Riverside trustees voted unanimously on Nov. 18 to approve selling property the village owns at 2710 Harlem Ave. in order to unlock a deal to bring an adult-use cannabis dispensary to the property immediately to the north at 2704 Harlem Ave.

The village will sell the narrow commercial parcel at 2710 Harlem Ave., which formerly housed a dry cleaning business, to Dr. Milad Nourahmadi, who owns the properties on either side of that parcel.

Nourahmadi has long been interested in acquiring the vacant village-owned parcel for parking for the strip mall at 2720 Harlem Ave., which Nourahmadi also owns and houses his Shining Smiles dental practice and other businesses.

2704 Harlem Ave., Riverside | Bob Uphues/Editor

The village has been reluctant to sell absent a plan that would include a retail sales tax-producing business. Nourahmadi now appears to have met that bar.

Nourahmadi’s plans to sell the property at 2704 Harlem Ave., which now houses a COVID-19 testing center, to Mint IL LLC, which intends to remodel the existing building and operate a dispensary there.

The tentative closing date for that sale is Feb. 4, 2022, according to Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances. A call to Nourahmadi seeking additional comment was not returned.

Mint IL LLC lists its office address as 3816 Harlem Ave. in Lyons, which is actually a Cricket Wireless store. According to a corporate registry filing on the Illinois Secretary of State’s website, the managers of Mint IL LLC are Omar Fakhouri of Troy, Michigan; Joey Kejbou of Rochester Hills, Michigan; and Reinaldo Ramos Jr. of Chicago.

Mint IL LLC was one of the companies awarded one of the 75 dispensary licenses in Illinois that were up for grabs in a September 2021 lottery. 

The action taken by the village board on Nov. 18 will result in village selling 2710 Harlem Ave. to Nourahmadi for $230,000, which is roughly the amount the village has expended to acquire, demolish and remediate the former dry cleaners site, minus the amount the village has collected through a 1-percent business district sales tax it imposed on that stretch of Harlem Avenue in 2017.

Selling the 2710 Harlem Ave. property will also place it back on the property tax rolls, and the introduction of an adult-use cannabis dispensary will result in the village collecting the 1-percent state sales tax on all cannabis retail sales, plus the village’s 1-percent non-home rule sales tax, the 1-percent business district sales tax and the village’s 3-percent cannabis retailer occupation tax.

The non-home rule sales tax revenue goes to fund road improvement projects, while the business district sales tax must be used only for infrastructure or redevelopment incentives within the business district, which stretches from Berkeley Road to the alley south of the Citgo gas station.

The rest of the sales tax revenue can be used to fund general village operations.

Village officials say they’re not sure what impact retail cannabis sales will have on village revenues, but it is predicted to be sizable.

“I think this will be one of the best economic drivers we’ll have in our village,” said Village President Joseph Ballerine during a phone interview following the Nov. 18 vote. “I’m very optimistic this will be a big impact for the village.”

The closest cannabis dispensary to Riverside is in Oak Park, where officials estimate they’ll collect $375,000 in 2021 from the 3-percent cannabis sales taxes alone by the end of the year. That figure does not include the state or any additional local taxes that would be imposed on cannabis sales.

France also announced prior to the village board’s vote on the property sale that plans are already in the works to improve the alley that runs behind the three commercial properties and to create some sort of barrier on Berkeley Road to keep traffic in and out of the dispensary away from the residential neighborhood to the west.

“We want to ensure there’s no cut-through traffic over on Berkeley,” said Frances, who described a potential solution as a “bump-out” that would block westbound traffic at the alley.

In 2020 in response to neighbor complaints of cut-through traffic, Riverside made Berkeley Road a one-way street allowing eastbound traffic only. Do not enter signs were also erected at the east end of Berkeley Road at Harlem Avenue.

Weather could delay construction of any traffic barriers until spring, said Frances, but with the dispensary also needing to be renovated, she didn’t think there would be much or any lag between the time the dispensary opens and the traffic barrier is built.

Ballerine added that the village could erect a temporary barrier if it had to. While the construction of a traffic barrier on Berkeley Road is not part of the 2022 budget, the village could reimburse the general fund for the expense through the 1-percent sales tax levied on retail sales within the Harlem Avenue Business District 1.

This story has been changed to remove mention of the company SkyMint LLC as being connected to Mint IL. The Landmark included information in the story from a cannabis industry publication that had linked the two companies. However, the two companies are not related and SkyMint has no license or presence in Illinois. The Landmark regrets the error.