New housing planned for North Ave., Madison St.

Commercial corridors seeing more infill development interest

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Empty lots on two of Oak Park's highest-traffic commercial corridors could become sites for residential development — one a 6-unit townhouse and loft development on West North Avenue and the other a mixed-use building on Madison Street.

The proposal for the mixed-use development at 838 Madison St. is a two-story building with two ground-floor commercial spaces and three apartments above.

Plans for the townhouse project at 6603-6609 W. North Ave. include four townhomes and two lofts.

The projects are proposed by two different developers and not connected, but both represent a potential shift in development along the two roadways that have historically been populated by commercial structures.

Sharon Heilala, owner of Jade Sky Real Estate LLC, said in a telephone interview that her proposal for the North Avenue property uses a courtyard design, so residents don't feel like they're living off a major commercial corridor.

Jade Sky is seeking a special-use permit for the project and will make its case to the Oak Park Zoning Board of Appeals at its Dec. 6 meeting, 7 p.m. at village hall, 123 Madison St.

"The development is in response to the lack of modern, new multifamily units in the area that can also accommodate families. The interior design and finishes will be clean and moderately priced with a mid-century modern feel," Heilala notes in the application for the special-use permit.

An Oak Park resident, Heilala has worked in commercial real estate for 25 years, has her own business as a commercial appraiser, and has worked on small residential projects, but the townhouse project would be her first construction project from the ground up.

The proposal features four 3-story townhomes and two 2-story loft-type units, Heilala said. The lofts will front the North Avenue side of the building, while the townhomes are "accessed in a secluded east-facing private courtyard." 

The project includes a secured gate entrance off North Avenue, but vehicles would mainly enter and exit parking through an alley to the south of the structure. She said one of the lofts will have detached-garage parking, while the other will use a surface parking spot.

Heilala aims to begin construction in spring of 2018 and complete the project within a year.

She told Wednesday Journalthat the property, which has been sitting vacant for at least a decade, was approved for condominiums in 2008 for another developer but later went into foreclosure and was never built.

Heilala believes there still is a desire for housing in northeast Oak Park. 

"There aren't any modern family-sized units in that part of town," she said. "With the price of land on North, we can make a modern, clean, healthy, attractive development for a reasonable price."

The Jade Sky proposal is not the only recent interest shown by developers along North Avenue. Although ultimately rejected by Chicago Ald. Chris Taliaferro, Noah Properties proposed an 80-unit luxury apartment building on the Chicago side of North Avenue earlier this year.

That project would have built on lots — one vacant and another occupied by a shuttered US Bank — along 6600-6700 W. North Ave.

The other residential project proposed in Oak Park is at 838 Madison St. by Karla and Esteban Linarez. 

Neither could be reached from comment by press time, but Esteban Linarez is a sleep physician specialist a little over a block away from the proposed construction project at Madison Street Medical Sleep Disorders Center, 850 Madison St. 

The Linarezes are seeking a number of variances from the Oak Park Zoning Board of Appeals at that group's Dec. 6 meeting. Those variance requests include: changing the build-to-line from zero feet along the interior side-yard setback to a 6-foot setback along the east side of the property; reducing the number of required parking spaces from 11 to six; and reducing the size of the rear buffer yard from 7 to 3 feet.

At least one of the two commercial spaces planned for the building would be a restaurant, according to the application, which notes that "the side setback variance will allow for a side patio with permeable pavers increasing the appeal [of the] restaurant and makes it more accessible for customers to walk to the restaurant."

The application also notes that the lot on the site has been vacant for 17 years.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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