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Year in Review: Recreational marijuana, library improvements and new development come to Skokie

Tuesday, December 24, 2019
Pioneer Press
by Genevieve Bookwalter

Legal marijuana dispensaries, a guilty verdict in a 1992 former cold case and multi-million-dollar renovations at District 219 and Skokie Public Library were just some of the top headlines of 2019 in Skokie.

Recreational marijuana dispensaries approved

Skokie cleared the way for recreational cannabis to be sold in the village, on a 7-0 vote in September. However, village rules also restricted where the dispensaries could open and how they could operate, thus limiting the number of dispensaries in town to two.

Recreational marijuana will be legal for Illinois residents ages 21 and older to buy and possess as of Jan. 1.

Already representatives from one dispensary, Greenhouse, has indicated interest in opening a shop near Old Orchard Mall.

1992 cold case murder suspect found guilty

Robert Serritella of Park Ridge, long a suspect in the death of 15-year old David Chereck in 1992, was found guilty of first degree murder in May.

Serritella, 76, was long a suspect but wasn’t arrested and charged until 2014 in the decades-old case. Chereck was found strangled with his own scarf in a Morton Grove forest preserve.

Esther and Allan Chereck, parents of slain David Chereck, hold a photo of their son during an interview at their home in Skokie on Jan. 7, 1992.
Esther and Allan Chereck, parents of slain David Chereck, hold a photo of their son during an interview at their home in Skokie on Jan. 7, 1992. (Eduardo Contreras/Chicago Tribune)

Authorities said Serritella incriminated himself in statements to people in both California and Utah.

One of those men served time in prison with Serritella when he was convicted on a different offense. That fellow inmate recalled that Serritella said he lured Chereck to his car, proposed a sex act, Chereck refused “and things got out of hand,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Ethan Holland.

Serritella was found guilty by Cook County Circuit Judge Lauren Edidin, who sentenced him to 45 years in state prison. Serritella must serve at least half of that before he is eligible for parole.

Dist. 219 to renovate Niles North science labs, move Bridges program

Niles Township Community High Schools District 219 approved spending $29.7 million on capital projects in 2020, including a new science lab at Niles North and the renovation of a former office and warehouse for the Bridges program.

The Bridges program provides post-high school training for adult graduates with special needs. Often these students have met graduation requirements but seek help transitioning into the community, officials said. Students can receive services there until their 22nd birthday.

The science lab renovations at Niles North will follow the renovations at the science labs at Niles West, which were done this year. In addition, the Niles North roof should be repaired, new lights and windows installed and other maintenance completed.

The Niles North projects should total $15 million.


The district plans to spend $7.5 million to renovate the 50,000 square-foot space at 4700 Chase Avenue in Lincolnwood for the Bridges program, which outgrew its space at Niles North.

A planned renovation of Skokie Public Library is set to start in January 2020.
A planned renovation of Skokie Public Library is set to start in January 2020. (Skokie Public Library/Village of Skokie)

Skokie Public Library marked for upgrade

Construction should start in early 2020 on a $17.5 million interior renovation at Skokie Public Library.

The overhaul will include new digital media studios, an indoor-outdoor cafe and larger meeting rooms. There should be more space for teens and kids, better lighting, a redesigned community room, ground floor fish tank, and more comfortable and inclusive restrooms.

Construction is expected to take 14 months and the library will remain open during the work.

Skokie TIF moves forward

A downtown Skokie tax increment financing district moved forward after officials with Dist. 69 gave it their blessing in August.

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