Oak Park village board to discuss Comcast development

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Oak Park residents hoping to have a say on a proposed Madison Street apartment building, which has been the source of some neighborhood angst, will have their first crack next week.

A Chicago-based developer is planning to reinvent the long-vacant Comcast building at 820 W. Madison St., turning it from cable television offices into 51 apartments for low-income singles. Interfaith Housing Development Corp. was expected to submit its final application to the village on Tuesday, and the village board will start discussing it on Nov. 22, according to Village Planner Craig Failor.

Interfaith is partnering with Catholic Charities and the Oak Park Housing Authority to make the project happen. The final building being proposed is the same as what's been discussed over the past few years, said Ed Solan, executive director of the housing authority — four stories, first-floor retail and 51 apartments targeted at low-income individuals who live or work in Oak Park.

Some neighbors have voiced concerns about the project, saying that it's too dense and should contain a mix of residents with different incomes.

Interfaith will need relief from local zoning codes in order to remodel the Comcast building, which was formerly a Cadillac dealership. The current proposal is too tall, has too many apartments and doesn't provide enough parking spaces under village code.

The village board will hear a brief presentation on the project next week and then refer it to the Oak Park Plan Commission, which will then make a recommendation to trustees on the zoning variances. Failor expects the commission to start discussing the application on Dec. 16, and it will likely take about six meetings to make a recommendation to the village board.

Reader Comments

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Helen Shidler from Oak Park  

Posted: January 15th, 2011 10:31 AM

1. I am concerned about the density, number of new residents, that this building will add to my block on Grove Ave.; we are already part of the dense Washington Blvd. condo/apartment corridor. 2. The developers speculate that few renters in the building will have cars, but this is pure speculation. My condo, built in 1915 allowed 5 garages for 18 units; now inadequate. I am frustrated now that I cannot find parking in front of my house to unload groceries on weekends. 3. When I hear of the experiences of my neighbors who worked as resident managers in such buildings, I foresee that high risk residents will likely slip into the ranks, and become worrisome neighbors. Is $700/mo really affordable for these folks? Helen Shidler, 410 S. Grove

L. Hoffman  

Posted: November 23rd, 2010 8:13 AM

@ Betsy: needed services, needed housing -- can you elaborate and note the source of your information?

Betsy Davis from Oak Park  

Posted: November 23rd, 2010 7:13 AM

Needed services, needed housing, both in short supply, being handed to us for the price of a zoning variance and a little tolerance. Courage, Oak Park! use this fine opportunity!

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: November 22nd, 2010 11:33 PM

The Madison Avenue Housing Proposal is headed for the Plan Commission for review. They will have a Public Hearing on December. They wanted to have the hearing closer on Christmas Day, but Santa had booked the hall.Despite a letter to the board requesting public comments and a small protest, the public was not allowed to speak at the meeting.

OP Mom  

Posted: November 22nd, 2010 11:04 PM

Something to consider... early plans for this development call for 31 parking spots for 51 units retail in a building that requires 24x7 staffing.    That's a zoning variance that sets a precedent and likely won't even be enough parking when you consider residents, staff, guests, and commercial staff and customers. Where do the extra cars go? Are we ok with that sort of zoning variance precedent?


Posted: November 22nd, 2010 4:15 PM

NMR survey says 70 percent of surrounding neighbors oppose this development. Quote from Interfaith's Perry Vietti in June 2008 Wed. Journal article: "We don't want to just come in and impose our will on the neighborhood." http://tinyurl.com/2e3ynf9 Guess that was just a line. And we're supposed to believe that Interfaith will manage tenant selection properly, with the interests of the neighborhood in mind? A big leap of faith IMO.

Dave Heidorn from Oak Park  

Posted: November 18th, 2010 2:48 PM

It will be intresting to see if OP is a democracy or an oligarchy of the connected with special interests in public and nonprofit housing jobs and politicans with no geographic responsibility to any neighborhood who can push "doing good" at the expense of the families that have staked their lives in the Grove-Madison neighborhood. I lived by a respected agency's housing in Chicago. Guess what? They can take no responsibility for resident actions outside their doors. Who'll be doing that?


Posted: November 18th, 2010 2:18 PM

The Neighbors for Madison Renewal conducted a survey of the neighborhood to gather opinions on this project. The neighborhood is against this project by better than 2 to 1. The community does not benefit from an intentionally vague plan to rehabilitate a building of little historic value to service a demographic with no proven need for such a project. The only certain winners in this project are the commercial and corporate bond holders who will receive a tax loophole for their investment.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: November 18th, 2010 12:19 PM

The Madison Avenue issue is a mess. If a private developer selected a building for low cost housing but needed to add two stories to the building and a heap of zoning variances, the village would ask. Do you have money? If the developer replied, NO, but give us the renovation and zoning variances, and we will find it. What would OP say to the private developer? Perhaps, get out of my office. But if it is a government developer the village replies, Have a seat, do you want a cup of coffee?

Alan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 18th, 2010 11:50 AM

Come on trustees. Show concern for your tax paying citizens. We are the ones you have a duty to first, not outside interest. Going along with this proposal might make you feel warm and fuzzy for a few moments but in the long run it is in no way helping this village and those who call it home, which should be your chief concern.

kathleen from oak park  

Posted: November 18th, 2010 11:02 AM

How exactly does this project benefit the severely over-burdened OP taxpayer? The trustees were elected to look out for the interests of taxpayers -- not outside groups wanting to feed off us. Please, please, please do not approve this project. It is not good for Oak Park.


Posted: November 17th, 2010 5:03 PM

Follow the money--this is being proposed as all low-income because federal tax $$ are available for this type of housing, not because the developer has shown any specific demand from within OP. I can understand the housing rationale for the %u201Cworking poor%u201D, but there are over 100 vacant 1-bed apartments in the $700 range right now (same rate as this proposed bldg). And why do the working poor automatically need on-site social services? There are things that don%u2019t make sense here.

W. from Oak Park  

Posted: November 17th, 2010 4:18 PM

Aren't all the new affordable housing models about integration? I would say that this "project" would end up being just that. Bad idea for all!


Posted: November 17th, 2010 11:00 AM

I couldn't agree with you more OP Taxpayer!

OP Taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: November 17th, 2010 8:58 AM

It is horrible to think that the Village is seriously considering putting this housing project on Madison, right down the street from a Dollar Store. Has anyone else noticed that these controversial projects are ALWAYS discussed during a holiday week? Makes it a lot easier for the Village to disregard the desires of the neighborhoods that will be negatively impacted by the proposal.


Posted: November 17th, 2010 7:51 AM

Was this type of development part of the Madison Street master plan? Since this is a TIF district, how much will this development increase real estate and sales taxes? VOP chased out a 1,000 square foot tutoring agency, Score Learning Centers, because they didn't contribute to the TIF, but is encouraging an SRO - why?


Posted: November 17th, 2010 7:20 AM

This should NOT BE APPROVED! Not good for OAK PARK. Demolish the building and make it into a dog park etc...

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