‘We’re Ready To Go,’ Says Developer Of First And Lake Retail Project In Maywood

Sunday, September 9, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: A Landmarks Illinois design concept that developers used for inspiration to inform their own plans for retail and restaurant space at the corner of First Avenue and Lake Street. | Landmarks Illinois 

A developer who wants to build a complex of restaurants and retail stores on the corner of First Avenue and Lake Street in Maywood urged village officials during a recent Board of Trustees meeting to speed up the process of completing the project.

“We’re waiting, ready to go,” said Charles H. Walsh, Jr., a partner of Walsh Partners, a real estate and development company based in Elmhurst, during a Sept. 4 regular meeting.

“The sooner we can get this going, the sooner we can get the buildings built, [the sooner] you’ll have your tax revenue,” he said. “I just want to create a sense of urgency.”

Walsh, along with William Paul, the president of Xsite Real Estate, another partner in the development, presented their redevelopment plans to the village board back in December.

They targeted three parcels, including the historically significant Maywood Soldiers’ Widows Home; the vacant parcel on the northwest corner of First and Lake; and the vacant parcel on the northeast corner of First and Lake, behind Burger King. Collectively, the parcels, which are all owned by the village, are often referred to as the Soldiers Block.

Paul said in December that he and his collaborators would renovate the Soldiers Home while maintaining its distinctive Georgian Revival architecture. Echoing the recommendations of other architects and planners, Paul said that the building is most suitable for use as medical or office space.

Since then, however, village staff members, architects and developers have honed in on a plan that is close to shovel-ready, but it only entails developing the northwest corner parcel. The Soldiers Widows home and the northeast parcel will not be redeveloped as part of the preliminary plan that the developers presented earlier this month.

Initially,” said Josh Koonce, Maywood’s planner, “the developer and architect presented more of a strip mall-style development with a setback far from the street.” 

Koonce said that he and other staff members recommended that the architect “investigate a more traditional site layout that fits within the goals of the comprehensive plan for pedestrian-oriented environment and also within the village study we have on file for the site.”

The study Koonce was referring to was conducted by Landmarks Illinois and two architectural firms explores the best development uses for the Soldiers Block.

Koonce said that Walsh and Paul “came back with a concept that really reflects the study,” adding that, although the concept is still in the early stages, “I think it’s a really exciting site plan.” 

Koonce added that the revised plan that the developers presented is very similar to a development concept for the northwest parcel that is included in the Landmarks Illinois study.

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A concept in the Landmarks Illinois study that developers used to inform their preliminary design concept for the northwest corner of First and Lake St. | Landmarks Illinois 

Paul said that the proposed development includes two separate buildings and will echo the Georgian Revival architecture of the nearby Widows’ Home. The early plan features 9,100 square feet of ground commercial space, a parking lot that is tucked behind two newly constructed buildings and a community plaza that could include pavers, benches and “welcome to Maywood” signage.

“We’re dealing with a lot of national firms,” Paul said, adding that “we could literally build this plaza up with national restaurants.” 

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The developers’ preliminary design concept for the corner of First and Lake. | Xsite Real Estate 

Village officials said that there’s already a redevelopment agreement in place. In December, Paul said that new construction for the area could run about 16 weeks — “from breaking ground to delivering tenants.”

Once construction is finished, he said, it typically takes new tenants at least four months to move in before opening for business. At the time, he had hoped that construction on the project could start sometime in 2018.

According to a Dec. 19 memo drafted by Angela Smith, Maywood’s business development coordinator, and David Myers, the assistant village manager, returning the village-owned northwest corner parcels of land to the rolls would result in an estimated $125,000 in new property tax revenue and an as yet unknown amount of sales tax revenue.

“Going forward, staff will work with the developer to review submittals for elevations, building materials, parking, sidewalks, building signage, site lighting, and any other site components, and to determine if any zoning relief will be required for this site,” village officials said in a memo released this month.

For Walsh, those next steps can’t come quickly enough.

“We just hope that this can be concluded sooner rather than later,” he said, adding that the process “is taking a little longer than we expected.”

“We’ll speed it up, then,” responded Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr. VFP 

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One thought on “‘We’re Ready To Go,’ Says Developer Of First And Lake Retail Project In Maywood”

  1. A challenge for redevelopment has long been inclusion of the Widows Home. This development plan leaves a plan for the Widows Home until later. Failing to address it at this time limits its future uses. The biggest challenge for the Widows Home property is adequate parking, as well as pedestiran friendly access – which when planned simultaneously with the corner property can be accommodated nicely. Without such concurrent allowance and planning, prospective use of the Widows Home becomes limited. In their original presentation with set-back strip mall design, the current developers killed the entire back yard of the Widows Home for parking. Possibilities for the Home could include a nice restaurant – most of which these days include outdoor space – the back yard could present a nice outdoor dining for such; the Home could host an innovation hub such as 1871 at the Merchandise Mart – which could well utilize the rear green space. We Maywoodians should not be rushed by the developers because it’s easier to go with the dangled carrot of tenants in under a year at the price of the Widows Home becoming an unusable space because of challenges and opportunities not addressed in the planning stage. Keep in mind: Failing to plan is planning to fail. We’ve come this far – staff has done a good job working with these developers to deliver a quality project thus far; they should keep doing so until the WHOLE project promises success.

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