The facts about our project at Lake and Forest

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By Jason Koehn

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We share Wednesday Journal's call for a "worthy debate" about the project our company, Albion Residential, has proposed at Lake and Forest. To correct misinformation and false fears about it, we offer facts to help that discussion.

Over the last several months, we have met with neighbors, businesses, community organizations, nonprofits, the Park District of Oak Park and others in meetings that had two objectives: 

1) provide facts; and 

2) gather and understand concerns, questions and ideas.

We heard about several important issues, with Austin Gardens, height and density getting the most attention.

Austin Gardens: The fear our building would "destroy" the park is incorrect. We took great care to design and position an L-shaped building to minimize additional shadows on Austin Gardens.

It's a fact that tall buildings and green spaces co-exist across the country. See Mills Tower next to Mills Park for proof in Oak Park.

In addition to conducting shadow studies, we recently commissioned an arborist who has worked previously with the park district to analyze the impact on trees, vegetation and wildlife in Austin Gardens. When that report is available and no matter what it concludes, we will release it and add it to the Planned Development application.

We want to protect Austin Gardens, which is why we asked the park district to suggest ways we can work together to enhance it and make it more accessible for neighbors and newcomers.

Austin Gardens is an asset for everyone, including potential new residents in our building. To suggest we want to "destroy" it makes no sense.

Height: We are frequently asked why we proposed a building taller than the 80-foot limit in the ordinance. Today's marketplace and development economics are the reasons we requested a height variance.

An 80-foot rental apartment building is not financially viable when land costs, building management and structured parking for residents and the adjacent 1010 Lake Street building are taken into account.

Here's another fact: our shadow studies show an 80-foot, block-shaped building would create just as much and, at certain times of the year, more shadow impact on Austin Gardens.

Density: Downtown Oak Park is booming because of its commitment to transit-oriented development. Restaurants and retailers want to come to Oak Park because of its increasing density and activity.

That's why Target and Two Brothers are coming to Oak Park, Jayne and other shops have fully leased Marion Street, and restaurants are calling us to ask about our Oak Park project. They recognize a good thing when they see it.

Finally, we have not asked the village to "accelerate" the review process so as to avoid public debate. I lived in Oak Park; members of our team were born, raised and live here; and our property management company has operated Oak Park City Apartments at Lake and Euclid for years. We understand and respect the community's commitment to an open, transparent process that encourages public participation.

We are very excited to be part of a vibrant community like Oak Park and the role our project can have in its growth. As part of that process, we welcome a fact-based "worthy debate."

Jason Koehn is president of Albion Residential.

Reader Comments

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Josh Klayman from Oak Park  

Posted: March 21st, 2017 12:28 PM

I focus here on just one of the points of misinformation in this article. Mills Tower is HALF the width of the 1000 Lake site, measured east to west (see satellite photos on Google Earth). Being to the south of the park, the E-W dimension, multiplied by height, determines the size of the shadow zone. This, along with the points in Bridgett Baron's 3/18 comment, shows the Mills Park comparison does not work in favor of this project.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: March 18th, 2017 3:43 PM

you are correct Bridgett - thank you for that insight. It is also my understanding that they had to do away with the children's playground b/c of the wind tunnel effect created by the Tower. Correct me if I'm wrong. Also of note - the Village President and Trustees have cancelled their meeting on Mon., March 20. I'm sure there are a multitude of scheduling issues. But if not - Nice job managing the citizenry Anan.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 18th, 2017 3:40 PM

You're right Ada: great article. Makes one really think about different modes of development and achieving density. And I lived in both the high rise metropolis' he refers to as well as the low rise / mid rise ones as well. Yes, Washington DC and Charleston SC should be our model of development ( scaled appropriately of course for Oak Park). Unfortunately, you're talking to the proverbial choir here. The Village Board needs to read this and buy in. But unfortunately they are in the NYC / Chicago mode.

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: March 18th, 2017 2:18 PM

I lived next to Mills Tower and Mills Park for 19 years. 10 of those years were with our children. We've spent 100s of hours in Mills Park, entering the park 99% of the time right next to Mills Tower. There is a part of that park, the part close to Mills Tower, that is not usable for park-like things. This is because it's cold (always in the shade) and very windy. Also, Mills Park is bigger than Austin Gardens, by over 20%,, and doesn't have the tree and plant density as Austin Gardens. So I'm not sure if comparing Mills Park/Mills Tower with Austin Gardens/Albion is the best comparison.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: March 18th, 2017 10:53 AM

This is a great article on creating density without destroying charm. http://bettercities.net/news-opinion/blogs/ed-mcmahon/17989/density-without-high-rises

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: March 18th, 2017 10:46 AM

Take Action to Preserve Austin Gardens! Use Your 3 Minutes to Speak! Next Village Board Meeting - Monday, March 20, 2017 - 6:30pm It's easy? just show up and sign up ?" make your voice heard! Contact the Plan Commission! David Mann, Lawrence Brozek , Jeremy Burton, Mark Gartland, Doug Gilbert, JoBeth Halpin, Greg Marsey, Paul May, Kristin Nordman 708.358.5418 planning@oak-park.us Contact Village Trustees! President Anan Abu-Taleb 708.358.5797 mayoranan@oak-park.us Peter Barber 708.358.5799 pbarber@oak-park.us (Term ends in April) Glenn Brewer 708.358.5795 gbrewer@oak-park.us (Term ends in April) Collette Lueck 708.358.5792 clueck@oak-park.us (Term ends in April) Andrea Button Ott 708.358.5796 aott@oak-park.us James Taglia 708.358.5794 trusteetaglia@oak-park.us Robert Tucker 708.358.5793 rtucker@oak-park.us Vote for Those Concerned about Thoughtful Development on April 4th! Deno Andrews Dan Moroney Simone Boutet Write a Letter to the Editor! Oakpark.com Stay Informed! Austinguards.org Austinguards FB page

Michael Grandy from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2017 12:04 PM

I am surprised that the developers states that a building of this size on the south edge of Austin Garden is not going to harm this park. I am dismayed that the Village Board is willingly facilitating the degradation of this park. Austin Garden is a small park in the center of the most densely populated and developed area in the Village. Given the vast amounts of information available to this subject, I have to conclude that the company pushing this project and the Board members that are going to approve it simply are focusing on the dollars, rather than on the damage; in short they made up their minds and just don't care. For a profit minded company to think this way is predictable, for our elected officials it is unconscionable. A good local example of what can happen when a large building is added to a small park is available at Mills Park. When Mills tower was first erected in the 1970'2, a children's playcenter was built just to the north of it. This playcenter like many in it's day was installed with sand surrounding the equipment. The sand was put in as an impact absorbing safety feature. The height and bulk of the building created a change in how the wind hit this park. An affect similar to a "convection oven" came into play which killed nearby trees, shrubs, grass, and damaged the playcenter. As you might infer, I am not quick to believe the developers. Every floor is additional income and profit. The motivations of the Village Board are complex, their motivations for shoving this nightmare onto the electorate are really murky. Perhaps the politics of the situation resembles what the sunlight levels will be at the park once the structure is built. Trees do not die overnight, Due to a lack of sunlight, a change in wind pattern, a raise in temperatures due to a greater amount of retained heat (especially in summer) things will weaken and disappear. I had thought better and expected better of our elected Village Board.

Duane Hill from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2017 10:07 AM

I am concerned that the width of this building might cast a big shadow on Austin Gardens. Is it possible to rotate the tower 90 degrees so that the longest part of the footprint is in the North-South axis similar to the new tower right across the street.

David Gulbransen  

Posted: March 15th, 2017 8:59 PM

I would also be interested in knowing what Albion intends to do with regard to fair and affordable housing in Oak Park. What percentage of the building will be Section 8?

David Gulbransen  

Posted: March 15th, 2017 8:49 PM

To address a couple of your points: First, Mills Park is a different park than Austin Gardens. Unlike Austin Gardens, which wooded, Mills park is more open, and nearly an acre larger. It also has *one* high rise--Mills Tower. Austin Gardens already has Vantage. So while certainly park space and high-rises may co-exist, your comparison is not apt. Second, it's great that Albion has commissioned shadow and arborist reports. I can't wait to see them. But you're also footing the bill. It's incumbant on the Village not to accept them without independent review by the Villiage and/or the Park District. Not because I believe Albion is duplicitous, but unconscious bias can find its way into any study funded by the people who have a vested interest in moving the project forward. Third, it's important to note that the Albion project isn't approved, and yet Target, Two Brothers, Jayne, etc. are already coming to Oak Park. This suggest that perhaps we should let the impact of current developments settle before rushing into more. Apparently, the current development levels is *already* attracting businesses to Oak Park, so maybe the Albion development isn't needed at all? Or maybe a low-rise would work? Or maybe, we could extend Austin Gardens to Lake and make downtown even more attractive to potential residents? I understand that Albion doesn't want to destroy Austin Gardens. But it's important to note that Austin Gardens isn't Albion's asset: it's the citizens of the Village. And it's also important to note that the Park District, the body that is the steward of park spaces *for* the citizens of the Village are against the development. That, to me, speaks volumes. I support further study, but I'm not sure "the facts" you've laid out make as convincing of a case as you think.

Rob Wick from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2017 6:01 PM

I would simply suggest that if an eighty foot building height is inadequate for your company to make a profit, that you find another place to build your complex that falls within existing zoning requirements. The zoning requirements existed before Albion pursued the site. Your building will do more to take away from the charm of downtown Oak Park than it will to make my life better or the lives of (probably most) other Oak Park residents. Finally, the Park District has done a pretty adequate shade study. I don't see how your arborist can provide a different shade study - the sun rises and falls consistently on a daily basis. Can't change that. Save the money to help maintain the bottomline profit that you seek from a taller building. Sorry, but no thanks to another high rise - especially on that site.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: March 15th, 2017 5:12 PM

come to our event on the 19th - bring your arborist, shadow study and a measuring tape. Your kids can make kites and eat S'Mores.

Carolyn Cullen  

Posted: March 15th, 2017 4:43 PM

I posted a comment earlier and it is gone, as is one from someone else I know. Hhhmmmn....so much for 'worthy debate'??

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