Way Above Their Pay Grades?


When we first read the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate’s article on the City’s latest attempts to impose its will (or whim) on the development of the “Higgins Corridor” (“Park Ridge studies new uses for Higgins corridor,” December 25), we wondered: “Who in their right mind would trust Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, his Alderpuppets, and our City bureaucrats to come up with a “plan” for successfully developing anything?”

That’s because Frimark has already demonstrated his support for trying to sell out Park Ridge taxpayers through give-aways to campaign contributors: e.g., an eight-unit zoning variance to Norwood Builders/Bruce Adreani for Executive Office Plaza; $2.4 million in environmental clean-up and sales-tax sharing to Bill Napleton/Napleton Cadillac; and his wanting to offer hundreds of thousands of dollars above the City’s own appraisal to the owner of 720 Garden.

And from what we’ve seen, the vast majority of local government officials and bureaucrats seem totally incapable of making basic economic judgments that even the most novice private developer can make routinely…without benefit of a pocket calculator.

So when you read that that City is going to formulate a “Higgins Corridor Plan” that will “describe Park Ridge’s vision of the future development of the Higgins Road corridor and provide strategies for its implementation,” even you non-Catholics should get yourselves a rosary and start praying that the City’s economic give-aways won’t be catastrophic or fatal.

Try critically reading the Plan developed by hired gun consultants Camiros, Ltd. and Valerie Kretchmer Associates, Inc. [pdf]: You will chuckle, you may laugh, and – if you take it seriously – you will probably cry.  And when Community Development Director Carrie Davis starts throwing around buzzwords and phrases like “TIF”s, “Special Service Areas” and “outside grants” so that the Higgins Corridor Plan “doesn’t have to be a city-funded project,” that’s a pretty good clue that a city-funded project is exactly what it will turn out to be by the time the smoke clears and the mirrors are stowed away.

Just the Camiros/Kretchmer Plan’s “vision statement” – built on such Developer 101 marketing clichés as the Higgins Road Corridor becoming a “vibrant southern gateway to the City of Park Ridge” – let’s you know that you’re in for the proverbial snow job. 

Remember how “vibrant” was the adjective of choice for the gushing consultants and developers (and their local governmental cheerleaders like then-acting mayor Mike Marous, then-alderman/current Mayor Frimark, then-alderman “Retail Rex” Parker, et al.) of Uptown’s “Target Area 2.”  We still haven’t seen anything close to what we would consider “vibrant” emanating from Chico’s, Jos. A. Banks, the noodle joint, or the rest of those “retailers” that we were told would flock to Uptown and turn it into a rockin’ place that would deliver bushels of sales tax dollars to the City treasury. 

In fact, the closest we’ve seen to “vibrant” in TA2 is at flagship retailer Trader Joe’s, although that often consists of nothing more than a double handful of middle-aged Park Ridge matrons dropping a couple of bottles of Two Buck Chuck, several kinds of organic goat cheeses and a bag or two of “Wasabi Wow” trail mix into their carts.  Maybe “vibrant” is another one of those things that isn’t what it used to be.

And when was the last time the City advertised exactly how much sales tax all of those TA2 businesses are actually generating?

But back to the City’s “Higgins Corridor Plan” as devised by Camiros/Kretchmer, where we found the following passage: “Within the corridor as a whole, commercial establishments can be appropriate uses as sites redevelop.  Restaurants in particular are able to serve the day-time population, guests at the hotels across the street and the nearby residents, with quick casual restaurants the most appropriate type of eatery.” 

Wow! (or maybe “Wasabi Wow”!)  How much is that kind of insight costing us…and do we get a rebate for each time they use it again with some other towns collection of bureaucrats?

Ald./Mayoral Candidate Dave Schmidt (1st Ward) suggested one or more hotels in the corridor west of Cumberland, and the City’s economic director Kim Uhlig said developers have expressed interest in building a hotel, but it would have to be taller than the three-four stories permitted under the City’s zoning code.  So in typical don’t-think-outside-the-box bureaucrat fashion, it looks like City Staff decided this was way above their pay grades and folded their tents; and our elected officials, lemming-like, promptly followed suit.

Here’s an idea, folks, and you don’t even need to pay us for it: Like it or not, the developers who are putting up the money will end up calling the tune on what’s built down there.  So if there are developers already interested in putting up a hotel, why not invite their proposals and see whether it’s worth considering?  Like most local governments street-walking for cash because they can’t ever seem to live within their taxpayers’ means, the City of Park Ridge already should know what it is – so why not try to get the best price for its “favors”?

Or putting it a different way: Let’s not let City government blow off the big bucks and other benefits that can come from a “vibrant” moderate-sized hotel (like the Hyatt at Devon and River Road) and then try to nickel-and-dime us to death with sweetheart variances to “friendly” developers, like the eight extra condo units at Executive Office Plaza.

Because if we want to go big, we can’t keep thinking small. 

19 comments so far

Hey, don’t slam the noodle joint, more carbs…mmmmm good.

On a serious note…where can we view the plan developed for the Higgins Corridor? Is it online/city website?



Oh! Fillet me! I forgot the link!

Momentarily, Kaiser…

Thanks Alpha.


Man, this is a pitch right into my wheelhouse!

You are absolutely right about government getting involved in developers. That lesson can be learned in spades from King Richard II in Chicago, where he’s probably blown a billion dollars of taxpayer money over the course of his reign on TIFs, crooked land deals, zoning fixes and other incentives that either aren’t needed at all or are grossly exaggerated.

And you are absolutely right, PW, on letting the developers who want to develop the Higgins Corridor come in with their proposals rather than let our ill-suited bureaucrats and some hired-gun consultants give us their “vision” of that area.

One good hotel (like that Hyatt on Devon) would be worth more to our city than all of that other crap they are talking about putting down there, combined.

I’m reading the file though haven’t completly finished it yet, but it says tramsform the Higgins Cooridor into a southern gateway for PR and distinguish it from Chicago.

Why after 50 some years they now feel some need to do this?

Obviously they need to make some changes, The old Budget-Rent-a-Car have been vacant for I don’t know how long and why they’re finally going to fix the Higgins & Cumberland Crossing or even why it was never right in the first place.

Is a gateway arch like in St. Louis too “vibrant”? Are those big boulders entering Schaumburg on Higgins not “vibrant” enough? How about a bunch of big searchlights scanning the sky?

Much like the lack of leadership on the airport and casino, the history of the Higgins Rd corridor is full of missed opportunities. The largest of which was PR giving up the chance to annex all of the land between Higgins and I90 because, God forbid, the Marriott wanted to serve liquor!

I agree with you about future development in that area though. Why limit us to the vision of a few consultants? I’d love to see a developer come in with a creative plan that offers some incentive and “public benefit” to the city to grant some height and density variances.

Finally, to respond to one of your other comments, I think the uptown project looks really great, especially at night. And compared to the empty parking lot and water reservoir that used to be there, it looks pretty vibrant to me. I suspect that more of the spaces would be leased by now if the project hadn’t been delayed by the Summit and Baldaccino lawsuits, pushing their leasing into an awful economic retail environment. I guess time will tell.

Anonymous 1/7/09 @ 8:10 p.m.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “vibrant” as: “oscillating or pulsating rapidly; pulsating with life, vigor, or activity.” Don’t see how that describes the Uptown development, since every time I go by there (at least 3-4 times a day) it’s often hard to see signs of life, much less any “pulsating with life.” Maybe you should try “monument.”

ANd if you did your homework, you’d know that those lawsuits really delayed nothing because the City Council issued guaranties to the developer’s lenders in about 30 days of the suits being filed. That’s just a red herring that Frimark and Schuenke liked to throw around any time anybody criticized the progress of the development. If those suits delayed the process at all, it couldn’t have been for more than a couple of months, tops. And Frimark has no proof to support that contention.

If memory serves me right, and I hope it does, I believe I recall at a higgings meeting, the only real viable property worth re-developing along the entire “strip” (from Canfield to Dee) is Mr. Kays Property at the corner of Higgins & Dee. The rest was considered at it’s potential due to the depth of the lots and wouldn’t be attactive to developers for that reason. Unless Mr. K has had a “DUH” moment why would he consider selling a property when the real estate market is where it’s at right now.

As far as putting a hotel there, although it would in fact be great revenue, there are neighbors behind that property along Peterson, Greenwood to Western who might have a little something to say about the height. Not to mention the new casino that might attact a less than desireable element. These are just things that I’m sure will come up in any discussion.

Also the less desireable proerties along Higgins, there were some rubblings about a possible facade incentive but that kind of fell to the wayside.

wait and see,

I’m amused by your comment about “the new casino that might attact a less than desireable element.”

It’s not that I necessarily disagree. It’s that these remarks about casinos and gambling are funny to me in light of the fact that yesterday I received my invitation to the District 64 Elementary Learning Foundation’s ‘Ocean’s 64 – An evening of entertainment and casino games to benefit the educational experiences of the children of School District 64’!

And just in case there is a “less than desirable element” portion of the Park Ridge population that is interested:

Friday, January 30, 2009
7 pm to 1 am
Beau Jolie
9950 Lawrence Avenue, Schiller Park
The event includes: beverages, dinner buffet and desserts
Silent and Live Auctions
$75 per person

We went last year and had a ball. I look forward to this years event. Of course any party that I would attend would have to be considered “less then desirable”.


My comment was desiged as a “third person” remark, as to say, these may possibly be things that may come out in discussion, that’s all. As many of us have sat through numerous discussion and debate over issues such as height, density, safey, zero tolerance etc… and these are the types of things that I would expect to come up.

We all know that when you try to develope or should I say over develope in what is traditionaly known as a single family, bedroom community, the thought of big developement, mega stores or hotels tends to make people bristle.

Wait and see:

If the City invites the developer(s) to come in with their plan(s), we don’t have to sit around speculating on what somebody could or might put up – like Camiros and Kretchmer were paid a bundle to do.

Maybe they would want to buy up some of those homes and expand their area beyond Mr. Ks. Who knows? But paying consultants to speculate about imaginary developers that limit our options rather than expand them is stupid and a waste of time and money.

So long as the City can say “no,” why not look at everything anybody wants to propose, as well as the dollars that might be generated. If we don’t like the 8-story hotel, we just say “no” – what’s so hard about that.

We gave away 8 extra units to Norwood at EOP even though the neighbors barked and beefed, so it can be done. But at least we might get a lot more for the aggravation.

True, but I think there is a difference between the Higgins area and other parts of Park Ridge. Whoops…..I am back to the NIMBY thing again, aren’t I!!!

wait and see,

Yes, I understood your intended meaning and I found it amusing in the context of recent complaints to Park Ridge City Hall about the Des Plaines casino, in light of the recent invitation I received by one of our more wonderful local fundraising entities, in fact, organizing a casino night.

I also believe that we haven’t had to wait for any discussions about redevelopment or over development on Higgins to hear remarks about “a less than desirable element” associated with the Des Plaines casino.

I’m still laughing about the entire matter. Could it be our ELF board is populated with those who are, or spend time in the company of, “a less than desirable element?”

Rib-tickling-ly amusing.




Let’s look at Norwood as a glass is half full, and say, we reduced them down to 8 extra units as opposed to the original 32, down to 16 and finally down to 8, and all that was done due to the barking and beefing, not in spite of it.

Oh yea, and let’s not forget about the extra story in height that was denied, again because of the barking and beefing.

To Anonymous1/7/09/

Are you sure about the info you giver on The Marriott?

I used to looks though old PR papers and oddly enough looking through a bunch of 60’s papers all 3 of those buildings.

Th Nothern Trust Bank

The Marrott

O’Hare Plaza

Or at least that’s what it was originally called were built durring the mid to late 60’s and I think the southside of Higgins was always in Chicago territory. Unless I misread something and and even if we didn’t have the liquor issue PR probably wouldn’t of annexed the land in because they’re more than 5 stories high and at least in past decades the towns hieght limit has been nothing more than 5 stories.

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