Oak Lawn close to announcing anchor for 111/Cicero TIF

Mayor says name will be revealed later this month

By Laura Bollin

Oak Lawn village officials are close to announcing one of the businesses that will anchor a shopping center to be built at 111th Street and Cicero Avenue.

The redevelopment of the 111th and Cicero tax increment financing district (TIF) was among the main talking points Tuesday during Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann's state of the village address. Heilmann spoke to a crowd of about 120 people at the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce's luncheon at the Hilton Oak Lawn Hilton.

Oak Lawn plans to announce Feb. 26 the name of the first anchor tenant for the TIF redevelopment project. The tenant, which village officials refused to name, will bring in an estimated $50 million in annual sales and create 400 jobs. Oak Lawn village manager Larry Deetjen said the anchor tenant was chosen based on feedback from residents.

"We are confident we will have an outstanding anchor," Deetjen said.

The village owns the following assets in the TIF district: Edgar Funeral Home, 10900 S. Cicero Ave.; the Kmart/Dominick's property; Mansard Court, 11004 S. Cicero Ave.; the space formerly occupied by Oak Lawn Harley Davidson, 11040 S. Cicero Ave.; and Interstate Muffler, 4800 W. 111th St. The Kmart and Harley Davidson properties have been demolished, and Edgar Funeral Home has been leased to Midwest Orthopedics. No date has been set for the demolition of the Interstate Muffler property, Heilmann said.

The village created the TIF district in 2005. The redeveloped site will have two water features and may have two restaurants, the mayor said.

Public safety, in particular as it relates to the police department, was another aspect of Heilmann's presentation. Neighborhood safety meetings with the mayor and Police Chief Bill Villanova were held at Kolb, Hannum, Covington, Harnew and Kolmar schools in 2012. The police department last year increased its number of full-time officers from 108, up from 102 in 2005. More than 250,000 calls were answered at Oak Lawn's Emergency Communications' 911 center in 2012, he added. Calls were answered within 10 seconds 98.7 percent of the time, which Heilmann called "outstanding."

"All of lives were touched by what happened in Newtown, Conn.," Heilmann said. "No one expects to drop their child off at school and never see them again."

Six months prior to the Newtown shootings, the Oak Lawn police led an initiative to install placards at 23 public and private schools identifying classrooms and important areas to aid first responders in case of an emergency.

"This way, they will know where everything is in the school and know within seconds how to get there," Heilmann said. "They were thinking ahead."

Heilmann hopes to create a comprehensive safety plan for the village, he said.

"We want to sit down with a group of residents, a group of people who care, and develop a safety plan," Heilmann said. "We want to look at a lot of different areas. Maybe someone wants to look at lighting, someone might want to look at what's going on in schools, seniors who live alone, identity theft - we have to study this. We are right next to one the largest cities in the country and we can't ignore that. We have to study the statistics and educate people."

Heilmann said everyone knows a neighborhood that used to be safe but is no longer safe.

"We all know a place where it used to be safe, and now you wouldn't live there," Heilmann said. "That can't happen in Oak Lawn. We need to take the lead on safety."

Heilmann also noted the Oak Lawn Park District has received $750,000 in grant money for renovations. Heilmann and several attendees remembered the long-removed "rocket ship" slide that was once the centerpiece at Memorial Park, 102nd Street and Major Avenue. The park will be renovated this summer, with upgrades including a new "rocket slide," improved playgrounds, restrooms, a fishing pier and a splash pad.

Centennial Park, 93rd Street and Nashville Avenue, will be renovated in the fall. The project will add a playground and a picnic pavilion, along with four indoor basketball courts and a children's splash pool.

"The rocket ship slide was great," Heilmann said. "I'll see you all there when the park is done, and we'll all go down the slide."