Oak Park is considering expanding the boundaries of the nationally recognized Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District.
The village had already expanded the borders of the "national" historic district for the neighborhood, and now they want to make the "local" historic district boundaries match. The national designation is more of an honorary designation, while the local version requires that any demolitions or exterior alterations at homes be first reviewed by staff at village hall.
The boundaries of the historic district were oddly and arbitrarily drawn back in 1972. And the village's Historic Preservation Commission thought it made sense to go back and re-examine them, said Doug Kaarre, urban planner for the village.
"It's been clear for a long time that the boundaries of the existing district were kind of odd," he said. "They were in odd locations, they cut through the middle of blocks, and they didn't really make sense in some areas."
Oak Park successfully expanded the boundaries of the nationally designated historic district back in 2009. Now the commission hopes to make the local boundaries match those. The village hosted an informational meeting about the proposed change at the Oak Park Public Library last week.
Residents in the neighborhood seemed to have a lot of questions about the idea, so the commission plans to host a couple more informational meetings in the next few months, said Chairwoman Chris Morris, with the next one possibly happening in May.
"I was really pleased with the turnout, and I thought people had very legitimate questions," Morris said. "We just need more time to be able to explore those and get the full answers that they're looking for."
Amir Sheibany, of the 1000 block of Ontario, is one resident who is skeptical of a boundary change. He's supportive of the expansion, which would add his home to the historic district, but questions why the village wouldn't include the corner of Lake and Forest, where a developer wants to build a 20-story tower.
"When these buildings come in, the concept of a historic district goes down the drain," he said Monday by phone.
Last year, the American Planning Association named the historic district — loosely bordered by Division, Lake, Ridgeland and Marion — as one of the country's 10 "great neighborhoods."
The proposed expansion would include all or portions of 97 blocks and 1,934 properties. Any expansion of the historic district would require a public hearing, and final approval from the village board.
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