The Village of Orland Park might sound small but its population of 60,000 is the main economic driver in Chicagoland’s southwestern quadrant, located about 25 miles from the heart of the Windy City.
With three Metra suburban rail stations and a burgeoning largely service economy, “we’re the economic driver for the whole southwest portion of the Chicagoland area,” Mayor Keith Pekau says.
Orland Park in recent years has also been chosen as the site of various university and medical satellite campuses and has 12 million square feet of retail along its sprawling corridors.
“It’s the hub of the whole southwest suburbs of Chicago,” he said.
The community also has more than 150 restaurants and a huge shopping mall. But what it doesn’t have is a traditional downtown. And that’s what the $85.5 million so-called Main Street Triangle would establish, a pedestrian-centered commercial and retail district to fill not a donut hole but an empty slice of pizza.
The 9.5 acres of undeveloped land sits strategically with the Metra railroad tracks paralleled by Southwest Highway along the northwest, 143 Street along the southern east-west boundary and LaGrange Road bordering the east.
Past municipal administrations have tried to revive the district and in fact some $150 million has been poured by public-private investments into land acquisition and roadway improvements.
Pekau says the previous municipal administration had “basically mismanaged” the site. He was elected in 2017, “inherited it and we’ve been trying to come up with a commercially viable alternative.”
The Village put out request for RFPs and received two, choosing hometown Edwards Realty Co., helmed by president Ramzi Hassan, who had built a shopping center, Orland Park Crossing, directly across the street.
This past May the Village approved conceptual plans that would see more than 140,000 square feet of largely office, retail, and restaurants – also described as an “entertainment district” – in mainly two large rectangular blocks separated by pedestrianized Jefferson Street.
A “unique dining experience” is among the objectives, officials say.
The centerpiece will be a new Heroes Park which will be a focal point for art fairs, a farmers’ market, concerts and a new outdoor ice rink.
“They’ve developed a plan that they (the developer) think is viable, we think is viable, and meets the needs of kind of what I think the residents envision,” the mayor said.
Most of the southern part of the triangle is already developed – a residential complex called Ninety7Fifty on the Park, and the University of Chicago Medicine Center for Advanced Care.
But the sprawling post-war bedroom community “never really has had a downtown,” Pekau said. And though the community has lofty ambitions for the site, in context the Triangle will only be one-and-a-half blocks squared.
“So, it’s not huge,” the mayor said. “But it will have a pedestrian friendly restaurant and retail and office space and entertainment as well as a community park.”
Otherwise, the municipality’s businesses are spread out along two main corridors over several miles.
The existing Orland Square Mall, about a mile south, “is going to survive,” it having among the top 10 per cent in square foot sales of any mall in the U.S., Pekau said. The Triangle will add 60,000 to 70,000 square feet to the community’s 12 million square feet of retail.
The mayor said the developer has letters of intent from several high-end restaurants, but he wasn’t in a position to disclose the names.
“They have some people who are committed and are ready to go,” he said.
A microbrewery is eyeing the bottom floor of an existing parking structure already designed for retail.
Integral to getting the project off the ground is tax increment financing, which keeps future property tax increases frozen but the growing tax “increment” above that level is used to pay off the development’s costs. The Village itself has committed $33 million.