Decision on Madison Street apartment building proposal looms

With testimony wrapping up, group plans to vote on March 3

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

After months of meetings, the Oak Park Plan Commission appears set to decide whether to green-light a controversial apartment building proposal near Oak Park Avenue and Madison.

The commission heard closing arguments last week from both neighbors and a Chicago-based developer hoping to create a four-story, 51-unit apartment building for low-income singles at 801 Madison. Commissioners plan to reconvene on March 3 to make a final recommendation on the project.

They started discussing the proposal on Feb. 17, giving glimpses of their opinions, but held off on a full-blown debate until next month.

Commissioner Mark Benson said his main concern is the building's lack of parking. The developer is only providing 32 spaces for 51 units, arguing that many of the low-income tenants will use public transportation.

"The parking, to me, is a dramatic problem. Not just a problem, a dramatic problem," Benson said.

He alluded to studies showing that poor people still own cars and need their vehicles to get to work and to move up in life. Parking is a "deal breaker," too, for Commissioner Susan Roberts.

Commissioner Gail Moran said she wasn't as concerned about parking for residents as she was for the commercial space on the ground floor. She hoped the developer, Interfaith Housing Development Corp., would acquire more parking before breaking ground and also keep a manager at the building 24 hours a day.

"I think that would give the neighbors some comfort that this is not just a building of 51 people without any type of assistance or supervision on site," Moran said.

Commissioner Steve Rouse said he had major concerns when the development was first proposed, many of which were addressed during the hearings. While he still has some quibbles, he believes that overall it's an "intelligent" reuse of a "horrible" looking building. If a for-profit developer were buying the property, he said, the proposal might be much worse — taller with far more apartments.

"It would be much more of an imposition on this neighborhood," he said.

The developers are targeting the building to people who live or work in Oak Park already, but who can't afford to live on their own. They said last week that they couldn't give a firm number on what percentage of tenants would come from Oak Park.

Rouse said such vagueness isn't reassuring to neighbors.

"You're not providing anyone any comfort in the neighborhood because you're not able to give any ratios," he said.

Commission Chair Linda Bolte said neighbors brought up "legitimate" concerns in their closing arguments. Those included the need to do a six-month parking study after the building is filled up. She also expressed the importance of having a tenant list for the building that gives preference to seniors, individuals with disabilities and people who already live or work here.

The commission will continue deliberating and make a final decision on the project on March 3. The village board will have the final say, though, sometime in May.

Reader Comments

37 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Cicely from Chicago  

Posted: October 30th, 2012 12:47 AM

I would like to know will the apartments be for single mothers? I would love to raise my children in a safe place as this. I have a section 8 voucher and need a 3bdrm.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 12:34 PM

The next Plan Commission meeting is this week! Please come at 7pm Thursday to Village Hall to hear the Plan Commission deliberate.

marco  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 9:24 AM

In today's Trib local there is an article on the census tract and govt. funding (http://triblocal.com/oak-park-river-forest/2011/02/21/census-could-have-impact-on-oak-parks-bottom-line/.) There is a need for low income housing... for more money from the G! With that and the tax revenue the project will generate, this is more about a buisness deal, they don't care about the people in it, or the neighbors around the project. What a joke!

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 11:07 AM

@Dave Heidorn - I understand your frustration with this project. I can see your concern with one taxing body getting involved in something that "will further decimate the value in our homes." That said, I guess I don't see how not supporting the referendum, a request to restore needed funding to the school, something that protects the value in your home, makes sense. Also, lowering other taxing levies would not increase the revenues paid to D97.

Dave Heidorn from Oak Park  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 10:20 AM

It's entirely appropriate to link this project to District 97's tax increase. It breaks my heart to oppose it. My children benefited greatly from Dist 97 teachers who are paid disproportionately less than OPRF teachers. But when the Village even considers this project that will further decimate the value in our homes in this neighborhood, I have little choice but to vote against further taxes. Lowering other tax levies to pay more to Dist 97 is the only way to go.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 10:28 PM

On Comcast...here is the link to the Facebook page mentioned in the article: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Concerned-Citizens-Madison-Avenue-Housing-Project-Oak-Park/183305981700320 You can also find it by searching "Concerned Citizens Madison" in Facebook.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 3:14 PM

The additional information from the developers doesn't clear up much. In fact, it emphasizes the extent to which this is not in any sense a project for Oak Park. In order for prospective tenants to be eligible, they don't have to live or work in Oak Park, and, in fact, other criteria may take precedence. Any suggestion that the vast majority of new tenants will be from Oak Park or working here is pure speculation, and from a developer who has been extremely difficult to pin down on details.

Lucy  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 3:03 PM

Higher taxes caused by a successful D97 referendum will only further stagnate Madison Street recovery but the biggest obstacle is bad planning - Exhibit A: vacant commercial building turns into a Section 8 housing.

good grief  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 2:09 PM

so chet is blaming the Madison street woes on district 97? Don't let the facts interfere with the carnival going on inside your head, chet.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 2:03 PM

There is no question that the VMA has a huge advantage in the coming election, but that is not a reason to avoid asking candidates tough, fair, and direct questions at public forums. Who knows, enough heat and maybe some write-in candidates will emerge!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 1:32 PM

Hey guys, sorry to hi-jack your thread, but have you considered that one of the reasons why Madison is such a WasteLand is due to the high prop taxes? Why do you think that so many Mom & Pop businesses have left OP and moved to FP (and Madison)? As I'm sure that you know, D97 wishes to raise our taxes even more in April and so I'm kindly requesting that you consider voting NO. Please read the current D97 thread on the WJ site regarding this. Thanks a lot. I'm done and sorry for the hi-jack!

Alan from Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 1:20 PM

I am somewhat amused that some people are perplexed by the way the trustees of Oak Park tend to go forward with their own agenda in spite of the wishes of its citizens. This is nothing new. Irritating yes. Out of the ordinary? Hardly.

B from FP  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 10:10 AM

so...is there any way to have a referendum or a council meeting vote on this? seems kind of weird that a local government would do something this controversial on its own. are there any other benefits to this project other than filling a vacant building? any housing project statistics the village can point to? it seems like if they really wanted this, they could come up with some better reasons.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 9:40 AM

Sorry Gizmodog. The April elections are not going to change things. The VMA has a significant war chest that overwhelms any and all opposition. Their slate wins because of a strong political machine that is able to cover the Village with direct mailings, paid ads in our local papers and an avalanche of lawn signs. Anyone who witnessed David Pope manipulate the agenda during those stormy months when a group of outsiders won seats on the Village board knows that the VMA always calls the shots.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 8:45 AM

Voters are not served by candidates who refuse to go on the record. This is a calculated political decision. We only learn where the candidates stand after the election. The "cone of silence" will be lifted when it's too late to do anything about it. That's why there isn't going to be any real public debate. Job 1 is to maintain complete control. Followed by, keeping the voters in the dark. It's worked for 60 years and no one wants to mess up a good thing. But the lack of respect is appalling.

Chris Koertge  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:43 PM

I'm just curious whether any candidates for the Village Board have or would be willing to take a public stance on this issue. I know I'm only one vote but I can tell you that this is the top, if not only, issue that I'll cast my ballot on.

Gizmodog  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 10:29 AM

Whatever the vote of the Plan Commission on March 3rd, remember there will be a chance for change in the April local election. Don't like the way the Village board acted on this or other development projects (Lake & Forest as an example) then make changes in April.

Resident Taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 11:00 AM

I just cruised Madison from Ridgeland to Harlem and there are quite a lot of vacant, depressing "wasteland" areas. Looking specifically at the Comcast building, it's extremely hard if not impossible to go along with what is being proposed. There isn't even a double-wide sidewalk between the front doors and the street! As far as I'm concerned, Oak Park is on the way down and I'm on the way out. Sadly.

james  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 9:06 AM

wake up OP . How dumb can you be!

P. O'Shea  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 10:15 PM

If you want to stay informed,, join Concerned Citizens-Madison Avenue Housing Project (Oak Park) on Facebook.

Neighbor  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 1:19 PM

I wish I'd looked in another suburb when I purchased near the Comcast building. I thought the great reputation and history of Oak Park would be sufficient to revitalize the area. I guess I was wrong. That's 60302, not 60304. Linda Hill and Perry Vietti, you should be ashamed of yourselves. You are forcing an agenda on your neighbors that they do not want.

Sandmann13  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 11:39 AM

I am very concerned about the state of Madison street. It really does seem like a different village than Oak Park. More like a troubled area, and as much as I would love to see the Comcast building improved, a low income housing project will only continue the downward slide of Madison.

r.u.kidding  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 10:46 AM

watch the west side of chicago stretch down madison street through oak park. two words - mass exodus.

Peter  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 10:45 AM

Mary Ellen, you're reading way too much into a single comment. Extra cup of coffee this morning? As Demetrios said it's not uncommon for an apartment building of that size to have on-site management. The building itself needs supervision, entry and exit, delivery, supervision. Stop making a mountain out of a mole hill. That said, this shouldn't go there. It's a valuable prime location and if that's all they can do with it it should just be torn down until something more suitable can be foun

Marco  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 10:38 AM

Why would we need a resident manager? The building is going to house disabled, elderly, and a few high school graduates with entry level jobs. NOT!

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 9:16 AM

I understand that security personnel could be needed anywhere in OP, but Moran's comment suggests to me thatthe manager would be "supervising" the tenants. Such supervision sounds pretty intrusive but, from the community's perspective, do we want to be living near an SRO whose tenants require such supervision? In an already shaky commercial district? The Commision should reject this project. If it is approved, the decision should be appealed.

Demetrios from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 8:26 AM

Mary Ellen: Many bldgs around the village have res. mngrs. Look at the proposed profiles of tenants & you will see that many would be vulnerable. Intruders can get into the building and there are often safety hazards like blood on the floor, tenants who get locked out, dealing with the panic after a crime. If you heard some of the situations Amy & I dealt with while managing for OP Res. Corp., you would agree 24 hr. mngrs are absolutely essential for the tenants' safety.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 8:00 AM

Why is Moran suggesting that this housing project requires a 24 hour manager to provide "supervision" to the the residents. If 24 hour supervision of (young, not elderly or disabled) residents is needed, this suggests a different tenant pool than the developers have been promising and the neighbors have a right to be concerned. I presume 24 hour supervision of (tenants is not a common feature of Oak Park apartment buildings.

j.oak park from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 7:27 AM

Steve Rouse is threatening people with what could be... the only proposal that I have heard of for this property is this SRO...no other. He has no idea what would come in and we have zoning rules for a reason, if only to keep out unwanted projects. Rouse is desperate to get money, along with his VMA partners, into the village even if it is on bad decisions. This is not the Madison that we want. Patricia O'Shea is right: bring the Madison(Wi) style protest to Madison Ave. and the village board.

perplexed  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 4:58 AM

Planning commissions should not be commenting on what a (God forbid) "for profit" developer would do unless there is a competing proposal on the table. This property should be used for commercial, not residential purposes anyway. Office and/or medical office are far better uses. Does planning have a right to judge a proposal based on aesthetics? I see room for a lawsuit regardless of how they vote if decsions are based on appearance and what a to-be-named "for profit" developer might do.

Where I am Drawing the Line from Oak Park  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 9:38 PM

What is Oak Park thinking? I don't feel comfortable using the current establishments on Madison-from the Jewel to the Shell station and now the new Walgreens. And now we want a low income housing project on Madison? Really?! How is this going to improve property values and tax base? If we are going to give up Madison give it up to a WalMart--at least that will grow the tax base. Come on Oak Park!

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 9:11 PM

All of you commenting, we're going to need you to come out when this goes to the board...it's time for some good old fashioned 60s style community organizing.

Don't get mad, get litigating  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 9:07 PM

If this new slum is indeed okayed, which would be a horrible idea, there must be myriad ways to attack the permits, the process, the legality of every aspect of this in order to do everything possible to prevent it from happening. Why is the village so bent on doingeverything possible to ruin the Madison St.corridor?

Another OP Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 7:37 PM

@Tom Scharre: I'm afraid you're right. Why would Oak Park do anything that might actually PROTECT residents' property values and personal safety? Mindless, aging hippies run this village...and as long as THEY don't have to live next to "Cabrini Green Junior", it'll go up. Makes me sick.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 7:26 PM

I have two words: foregone conclusion.

Another OP Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 7:14 PM

Mr. Rouse & OP Resident: Are you aware that we already have 700 apartments designated for "fatherless children" and "destitute babies"? Why would you want to box up these precious angels and put them all in one place? Shouldn't they be allowed to live and work among all the rest of us OPers without the stigma of living in "that project".

OP Resident  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 6:46 PM

Thank you Mr Rouse. I am glad someone understands fatherless children need a good area to be raised. Destitute babies need a OP home! Commissioner Steve Rouse said he had major concerns when the development was first proposed, many of which were addressed during the hearings. He believes that overall it's an "intelligent" reuse of a "horrible" looking building. If a for-profit developer was buying the building, he said, the proposal might be much worse %u2014 taller with far more apartments. LOVE

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