plans to build a shopping center on the former Evergreen Country Club property—a project which Mayor James Sexton characterized as “the largest retail development in the history of Evergreen Park."
Developers said the 450,000-square-foot outdoor mall will be anchored by a 200,000-square-foot Menards and a 157,000-square-foot Meijer, as well as a Meijer gas station and convenience store on one of the outlots. Sexton said the project is expected to bring in about $4.5 million in property tax revenue and sales to the local school districts and the village.
Her family had owned and operated the golf course since the 1920s. The village of Evergreen Park had been trying to purchase the property from Ahern for years. , which were mostly items left over from the closing of the country club.
Representatives from Evergreen Park Development LLC presented the plan both at the Village Board meeting and at last week’s Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, where members voted 6-0 to recommend the approved plan to trustees.
“We’re very excited about this particular project. There’s a lot of positive interest from retailers,” said Patrick Thompson of Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella, P.C., the downtown Chicago-based law firm representing Evergreen Park Development LLC. Citing confidentiality reasons and because no other retailers have yet signed contracts, Thompson said he couldn't disclose which other retailers are interested, but Sexton assured that it was “a good mix” of retailers and restaurants.
During the meeting, residents and trustees expressed thoughts and concerns about “The 91st and Western Shopping Center” development, which will stretch from 91st Street to about 93rd Place and from Western Avenue to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad tracks, and its proximity to The Plaza.
“We think that this is going to be a great catalyst for Western Avenue, and we think that this particular project could help with the revitalization of not only this area of Western, but continue on going south," Thompson said.
Both Sexton and Thompson said they hoped the project would serve as a catalyst to The Plaza, which has seen declining business over the past few years.
"Hopefully that’ll wake up The Plaza management [so that they will] realize that they have to make a lot of changes," President said.
But many of the concerns expressed by the audience, which included residents of Evergreen Park and neighbors from across the street in Beverly, revolved around traffic issues, safety, job availability to people in the village and green space.
To address some of the traffic issues, the development agreement includes a stoplight at 92nd Place and Western Avenue. Representatives for the development said other access points to the mall will be at 91st Street and a right-turn-only entrance at 92nd Street.
Parents of children who attend school in northeast Evergreen Park were concerned about their kids’ safety while walking near the busy development. Sexton assured residents several times during the meeting that the children's safety would be the No. 1 priority.
Also relating to safety, some residents were concerned about whether village police would be successful at helping patrol crowds drawn by the development.
“They are more than capable,” said Sexton, who reminded residents that the Evergreen Park Police Department has 65 full-time officers, “fewer than most [departments].”
But what about jobs, asked Evergreen Park resident John Dwyer, who wondered if a certain amount of the jobs would be preserved for Evergreen Park residents. Dwyer noted that many people who work at the neighboring big box developments, and , do not live in the village. Sexton said he plans to ask them to host job fairs to “put Evergreen to work.” Hopefully, he says, that will boost Evergreen Park hires.
Trustees also approved the purchase of the land lying west of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad tracks using a $2 million grant from the state, Sexton said.
“It will be used as open space, multi-use, recreational-type thing,” Sexton said, adding that the Village Board will accept suggestions from residents before deciding what to do with the space.
Sexton said preparations for the project should begin this fall, with construction starting in full force in 2012.
Expected to bring new construction, other trade, and retail and management jobs to the village, Sexton calls this development a “win-win for everyone.”