Franklin Park business owners have downtown suggestions
Raj Lodhavia, pharmacist at Franklin Discount Drug in Franklin Park, fills a prescription for a customer Sept. 21. | J.Geil~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 28, 2012 6:19AM
FRANKLIN PARK — Older Franklin Park residents can recall when the downtown held a butcher store, clothing shops, cleaners and various other businesses.
But in recent decades, empty storefronts and a surplus of parking have appeared downtown as some of those businesses have moved out.
Paresh Patel, owner of Bell Liquors & Tap, thinks someone should talk to those business owners.
“We need to find out why they moved,” Patel said. “Then you need to think about how to bring business in.”
That’s a suggestion that didn’t make it into a report by The Urban Land Institute. On July 16, institute representatives toured the village and met with area developers and village officials. The institute has issued a report with 11 short-term and eight long-term actions to reinvigorate downtown.
The report suggests surveying residents on the type of businesses they would like to see downtown. It also suggests “convenience retail” businesses, such as a coffee shop or cleaners, near the Metra station on Pacific Avenue.
Nicolas Carrillo, who opened La Conchita supermarket, 9709 Franklin Ave., 27 years ago isn’t overly concerned about what businesses locate downtown, as long as they’re different from what’s already there.
“Not the same businesses we have here,” Carrillo said.
Raj Lodhavia, who bought Franklin Discount Drug, 9735 W. Franklin, 15 year ago, agrees.
“All different types of business,” Lodhavia said. “Small business, that’s what we have to attract.”
John Schneider, appointed Franklin Park’s economic development director on Sept. 17, agrees small business is the way to go.
“The stores downtown are never going to be the big boxes,” Schneider said.
Downtown has no lack of space for small business. All the ground floor storefronts of The Crossings condominium building are empty, which rankles Lodhavia.
“There were four or five businesses they took down (to build The Crossings),” Lodhavia said.
Schneider suggests the rent is too high for small businesses at The Crossings, though maybe a larger business, such as a banquet-sized restaurant, could succeed.
In addition, the former LaSalle Bank building on 25th Avenue remains empty, along with scattered storefronts on Franklin Avenue. The site on the northwest corner of Franklin and 25th avenues planned as the second phase of The Crossings remains a grass-covered lot.
Reinvigorating downtown seems a chicken or egg dilemma. New businesses might move in if there are shoppers. Shoppers might come if there are new businesses.
“People have to have a reason,” said Tim Felix, who located Midwest Magic to 9706 Franklin Ave. 15 years ago. “Empty storefronts do not provide them with a reason.”
Sixto Rincon, owner of Aracely’s bakery, suggests creating gathering places, such as at The Crossings II site.
“That beautiful empty field, turn it into some kind of park to get kids to play there,” Rincon said. “Put in soccer nets and turf. It brings people in.”
The report echoes Rincon’s suggestion. It also suggests adding more bike racks, providing better access and visibility to the Metra station north of Belmont Avenue, seeing if the Franklin Park Library would relocate downtown and making it easier for pedestrians to get around between Schiller Woods, the Metra stations and downtown.
There are bright spots. George Tselos, who owns Crystal Fountain Café along with his father Gus, said the village has done a good job with planting trees and maintaining the sidewalk and streets.
An entrepreneur is rehabilitating the empty DJ’s Nightspot, with plans to locate a craft beer bar and restaurant.