Developer eyes 6.9-acre parcel for retail site

Special to the Tribune

A developer is setting his commercial sights on the last piece of sizeable vacant land in Palos Heights, citing the area demographics and high traffic count as a good fit for retail and office use.

The 6.9-acre parcel on the northeast corner of Illinois Route 83 and Harlem Avenue would ideally hold a bank, national retail and restaurants, said developer Tad Lagestee, who is hoping to buy the property. The site could be home to six buildings totaling 55,000 square feet and 261 parking spaces. There would also be a sidewalk connecting the area to a Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens walking path.

The City Council this week asked the city attorney to draw up an ordinance for the preliminary plan, which has already been approved by the city’s Planned Unit Development Commission and Planning and Zoning Committee.

“It’s in dire need of development,” said Lagestee, before the council meeting. “The triangular shape has always been a problem, with the site because it’s kind of an odd shape and you have to really play around with the parking and geometry of the site,” said Lagestee.

Developer Bill Basic had originally wanted to build senior housing at the site. But meeting a cold reception, he changed to a mixed-use retail development. Not finding tenants in the weak economy, he put the property up for sale about a year ago. The land was formerly the site of a car dealership.

The listed price at that time was $3.2 million, though Lagestee declined to give the current cost. The site is in a special taxing district, which would be used to front some development costs. That listing mentioned a daily traffic count exceeding 54,000 and “appealing demographics” of families, seniors and college students.

Mayor Bob Straz said he was encouraged by the new plan, which must still be voted on by the City Council.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Straz. “We’ve got an experienced developer with a track record who shows he can get things done,” said Straz.

Ald. Jack Clifford said he thought the development could “make it a unique area of the city.”

“We’re looking for something that’s resident friendly, not overdone or over-dense,” said Clifford, who chairs the Planning and Zoning Committee.

But several aldermen said they thought the city needed a more suitable gateway.

“It’s not forward looking, it’s just an effort to put buildings on a vacant piece of property,” said Ald. Alan Fulkerson, who voted against the plan at the Planned Unit Development Commission meeting.

Ald. Bob Basso said he thought the gateway needed “something much grander than that.”

“I’m afraid it’s going to end up being a ghost town with a bank on the corner,” said Basso.

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