A group of Oak Park residents living near Madison Street has recently formed a neighborhood group, hoping to have a say on a proposed apartment building that has been a topic of concern in recent months. They'll join a disparate group of other neighborhood factions looking to shape the future of one of Oak Park's most eligible stretches of land.
Oak Park Citizens for Inclusionary Housing is a group of residents who recently banded together in reaction to a proposed 51-unit apartment building at 820 W. Madison for low-income individuals who live and work in Oak Park.
Among their charges, the group claims it's a bad idea to group a number of "poor" people into one building, rather than mixing people of diverse incomes. In a recently issued opinion piece on the development, they question whether there is even a demand for such a building in the community.
The group wants to see more information on how the project will affect safety here, according to the piece.
"I don't know whether it fits in Oak Park," said John Murtagh, one of the members of the group, who lives nearby on Oak Park Avenue. "Among the homeless people as a group, there are a lot of drug problems, a lot of mental problems, a lot of things like HIV. When you bring that in bulk into a neighborhood, it has to have some impact."
The building is being developed by the Chicago-based Interfaith Housing Development Corporation, in concert with the Oak Park Housing Authority and Catholic Charities. The former recently opened two similar buildings in Chicago, according to Perry Vietti, Interfaith's chief operating officer.
The developers have said that they are not targeting the project toward individuals who are homeless. Rather it's being built for single people earning $26,400 or less annually, who currently live with relatives or work in Oak Park but can't afford to live on their own. The developers claim there's demand in the village for such housing.
Vietti, who is also an Oak Park resident, disputed the group's charge that the building represents segregated housing and more than Oak Park's north neighborhoods filled with million-dollar mansions right next to each other, which can only be afforded by certain individuals, he said.
"I really don't buy that argument that it's segregated or exclusionary housing in some way," he said.
The village board referred the proposal to the Oak Park Plan Commission last week, which will hold the first hearing on Dec. 16. The project requires several variances from local zoning rules, as it is taller and denser than currently allowed.
Village Planner Craig Failor estimated that it will take about six meetings before the commission issues a recommendation to the village board.