By Dermot Connolly
A new development dubbed “Oak Lawn Commons” planned for the former Kmart strip mall property on 95th Street is one step closer to becoming reality after winning the approval of the Planning and Development Commission on Monday.
After approving three variations sought by the developer, The Hubbard Group, the advisory board voted unanimously, 8-0, to recommend that the Oak Lawn Village Board approve the new retail and restaurant development at 4031 W. 95th St. at its next meeting on Sept. 25.
The site has been largely vacant since the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant moved out last fall, followed by the closure of Kmart in November.
“It’s going to be wonderful,” said Mayor Sandra Bury on Tuesday, noting that it represents a $40 million investment in the village of Oak Lawn.
She said The Hubbard Group gave a presentation outlining its plans to retain the existing building on the property, but reduce it by 75 feet, and gut the interior. The plans call for dividing the building into four retail spaces, and build four separate buildings on “out lots” to bring in restaurants or retail businesses.
“The size of that original building is much too large for the type of developments being done these days, and shortening it will make room for more parking,” said the mayor.
Bury said about six residents attended the commission meeting, and were generally supportive of the development.
“One woman was concerned the corner closest to her residence at 96th and Keeler, but I think she was satisfied with the answers she got,” said the mayor.
Bury said that the Hubbard Group is not yet ready to name the exact businesses they are negotiating with to move in to the property. But they said they suggested there would be at least one upscale “white-tablecloth” restaurant.
“There will be outdoor dining. They said there will be no fast-food restaurants, but maybe fast casual,” said the mayor.
In addition to retail stores, she said The Hubbard Group is also considering a “high-end fitness center” and a “small, upscale grocer.”
Bury said she was also pleased to see the landscaping and exterior features planned for the new development.
“I am thrilled to see so many quality elements incorporated into it, like lush plantings, pavers, and walking paths,” she said, adding that it will be markedly different to what it looked like before, when there was just an enormous parking lot in front of Kmart, Chuck E. Cheese’s, and Payless Shoes.
“It really will transform that corner, which is a gateway to the village,” said Bury.
“The best-case scenario would be to have the first tenant opening doors late next year. But these things take time,” said the mayor.
She noted that after getting approval from the village board, the developer’s plans to manage water runoff will have to be approved by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
“Right now, there are sections of that parking lot where rainwater pools, and if you park there you can be in big trouble with your car,” she said.
The developer plans to alleviate that with underground water detention.
“I want to thank the Hubbard Group for working with us on this. They really listened to Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th) and our team’s concerns early on and presented what will be a wonderful development for our community,” said Bury.
Besides the $40 million investment, she said the development will create hundreds of jobs.
“It will energize this already vibrant corner of our village,” she said.