No Walgreens for Tinley Park

The news is not good in general for the economy, and even worse for the south Chicagoland area when Walgreens drops plans from building in an economic powerhouse like Tinley Park.

The proposed construction site at 171st Street and 84th Avenue is certainly busy enough to sustain a pharmacy and convenience store.  According to the Sun-Times, however, the proposed 14,000-sqare-foot Walgreens and an adjacent 6,000-square-foot retail center will not be built.

The developer just pulled the plug, leaving LeMonnier and his neighbors stuck with a mess.

Orland Park-based Gemini Cos. announced last week during a village court hearing on several ordinance violations that it had sold the site of the planned Walgreens store, Trustee Tom Staunton said Tuesday night.

Not even the village knows who the new landowner is. Gemini didn’t tell the judge, Staunton said.

Mayor Ed Zabrocki and other village officials are understandably upset at the decision of the developer to abandon the site:

Several trustees and Mayor Ed Zabrocki first heard the news at a Tuesday night village board committee meeting.

“(Gemini has) put the government and residents through this for three years,” an angry Trustee Greg Hannon said.

If Walgreens isn’t built, Tinley Park will level the site and go after Gemini for any money it owes the village, officials said.

“If necessary, we could lien the property for any work the village does,” Zabrocki said.

It sounds like the village board overshot on this one, and Tinley Park residents must be furious with village officials on this one.  According to the Sun-Times, the village demolished seven homes for this failed project, twice rejecting recommendations from its own plan commission:

Two years ago, the village plan commission rejected the development because it thought it would set a dangerous precedent to tear down homes for a business project. Seven homes in Plum Court were demolished to make way for the drugstore chain.

But village trustees overrode the commission, approving the Walgreens and the retail center with several stipulations, including that the strip mall could not house a tavern or frozen-food locker, among other types of stores.

But Gemini did not proceed on the project within the required time period and had to go back before the plan commission, which again rejected the development. Again, the village board rejected the commission’s recommendation and approved the project in June.

Frankly, I hope Walgreens and other developers realize there is more economic potential further south.  I don’t feel sorry for Tinley Park, which is already overbuilt.  Zaborcki and his board got greedy, over-controlling and, frankly, a bit sloppy.  They rejected twice the wisdom of their own plan commission to force a project that was doomed to fail.

Developers and retailers would be wise to look to Park Forest and surrounding areas for future projects.  The area there is ripe with untapped potential, the residents hungry for local businesses.

The sleeping economic giant of the Chicagoland area lies south of I-80.  The business community ignores that at its own peril.