Our View: Oak Forest joins trend
SouthtownStar editorial October 30, 2012 10:06PM
Updated: December 1, 2012 4:44PM
Oak Forest is the latest Southland town to pursue the concept of combining a new Metra station with nearby apartment buildings as a way of fostering economic development.
City and Metra officials last week broke ground on a $3.3 million station that will replace the outdated one near 159th Street and Cicero Avenue and that’s designed to jump-start the city’s Gateway redevelopment area that has struggled. A CVS pharmacy is the only store on the northwest corner of the busy intersection, where city officials envision a bustling retail area.
The idea behind what urban planners call “transit-oriented development” is to offer apartments or condominiums near train stations to attract commuters, singles and empty-nesters — as well as businesses that cater to the residents and other commuters.
With the condo market in the dumps, still trying to recover from the Great Recession, developers are touting apartments, preferably upscale ones, as the way to go because of what they say is rising demand for such housing. And municipal officials are eager to sign on to try to spur stalled housing and business growth.
Oak Forest’s project is comparable to those in Orland Park and Tinley Park, which seek to bolster their downtowns. Oak Forest plans two, five-story buildings near the new station, with shops on the first floor, parking on the second and apartments on the top three.
In Orland Park, construction is under way along 143rd Street on the Ninety 7 Fifty on the Park building, which will have 295 units and retail space on the first floor. Tinley Park’s Boulevard at Central Station downtown will offer 167 apartments on its top four floors with about 24,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor.
It’s a gamble for each town as they hope to attract enough tenants — the key to these developments succeeding. It’s a bigger roll of the dice in Orland Park because of the village financing nearly the entire project, a decision that we’ve questioned before as an unnecessary risk.
But we understand town officials’ frustration with the lack of growth in recent years. They see these projects as a good bet, and we hope they’re right.