Redevelopment hopes spring back to Harlem Avenue

color page one heights story

Photo by Dermot Connolly

Real estate developer Michael Coogan is planning to redevelop this section of the 12300 block of South Harlem Avenue in Palos Heights, across the street from his transformation of the old Ben Franklin variety store into Palos Place.

The developer of Palos Place wants to do for the east side of Harlem Avenue something like he did for the west side in the heart of Palos Heights’ central business district.

So far Michael Coogan’s is the only plan on the horizon for the redevelopment of the downtown Harlem Avenue corridor envisioned by Palos Heights officials when they established the Harlem Avenue Overlay District last year.

Further up the road, however, city officials will consider a senior living complex at Route 83 and Harlem Avenue brought back the City Council Tuesday after its initial presentation last December.

See Editorial, Page 4

The Harlem Avenue Overlay District’s mixed-use zoning rules are designed to create a balance of commercial and residential uses within the Harlem Avenue corridor stretching between Route 83 and 127th Street.

The goal of the guidelines set out in the Harlem Overlay District is to attract more service businesses, such as restaurants and professional offices that would generate more foot traffic in the Harlem Avenue district. Encouraging property owners to remodel and modernize existing buildings is also a goal of the district.

To help realize that vision, the city recently tapped Frank Diliberto of Diliberto Real Estate, to market the Harlem Overlay District to businesses and investors on a pro-bono basis.

Diliberto’s real estate firm is located within the target area, at 12413 S. Harlem Ave.

“He came to us with the idea. We want him to market the new Overlay District and he has contact with a lot of buyers and sellers,” said Mayor Robert Straz.

While Diliberto is being called the economic development development adviser, he doesn’t really have a formal title, the mayor added. The Regional failed to reach Diliberto for comment for this story.

Diliberto will work closely with Michael Parella, community development coordinator for Palos Heights, Straz explained.

Brigid Capital’s Michael Coogan’s successful redevelopment of the old Ben Franklin property at 12306 S. Harlem now called Palos Place is seen as an example of what can be done elsewhere along Harlem Avenue.

The two-story building, which has apartments on the second floor, features retail businesses known as the Shoppes of Palos on the first floor near Diane’s Place, an ice cream store and restaurant, facing Harlem at the center of it all.

A grand opening “Sip and Shop” is planned from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight (Thursday) to welcome the newest addition to the Shoppes called Bleu House Home Designs, featuring handmade home décor, soaps, art and furniture.

Coogan’s next project is to redevelop a section of the strip mall across the street, between 12349 and 12357 S. Harlem. He declined to say much about his plans this week because he has not finalized them to present to the City Council. He hopes to do so in May, and was not ready to talk about the details until that is done.

“I saw an artist’s rendering of it. It looks very nice,” Mayor Straz said of Coogan’s plans.

Similar to Coogan’s Palos Place development, the new plans reportedly also would include retail space on the first floor with residential units above.

“That is the sort of thing we need,” said Straz. “What we really need are investors willing to improve some of the properties along there.”

He said that some of the existing buildings have not been updated since the 1950s or before, and “they’re old and they’re tired.”

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