Developers wanting to build 22 townhouses on a parking lot near the West Cook YMCA took their proposal to the public, Monday, but while many residents were happy to see a better use for the site, some were cautious about the parking shortage it would create.
John Schiess, of JCSD LLC, said the development team, which consists of himself, Rob Palley and Mike Streit, aims to build the townhouses on the property bounded by Randolph Street, Wisconsin Avenue, Washington Boulevard and Home Avenue. The property is currently owned by the YMCA and used as a parking lot capable of holding 164 vehicles, most of which are rented to area neighbors.
Schiess said the three-story townhouses would stand 40 feet tall and include 44 parking spaces, reducing the number of cars coming and going from the lot, which must be accessed through an adjacent alley.
Some neighbors voiced concern that the removal of the lot would put residents on the streets or with nowhere to park.
Paula Halfin, who works for a company that owns rental properties in the neighborhood, said renters from her building nearby rent 24 spaces on the lot.
"I feel like [Schiess] didn't care where people parked," she said, noting that with two parking spaces for each townhouse, there would not be enough room for visitors, which would put more cars on the street.
"You can't park on Randolph overnight because there's a lot of signage," she said. "He's only concerned about his development. He's not concerned about whether or not they have visitors."
Neighbor Maryanne Mohanraj acknowledged that parking would be stretched tight but added that a development would be better than a parking lot.
"It's going to make parking harder for the people in the neighborhood; that is an ongoing issue," she said. "But for me as a homeowner, it's probably going to raise the property value. My kids run through that alley, so I think it's going to make it a little bit safer having less traffic there. I think in the long term it will be good for us.
"Generally, it seems like a well-conceived project, and a parking lot is an underutilization of the space."
Schiess said he has been working with the village parking services manager and identified 53 privately-owned parking spaces that could potentially be used by those currently parking in the lot, but he declined to give details, saying he is still in discussion with the owners.
Schiess has said that although he wants to work with the village to help solve the issue, ultimately the development is a private deal, and he is not responsible for the parking problem in the area. He told the roughly 50 residents who attended the meeting that he is seeking variances, which would require a public process, but the development team could build a 45-foot-tall, 64-unit rental building with 96 parking spots without permission from the village.
"The property will be developed to its highest and best use," he said.
Schiess wants to complete the $8 million development in late 2014 or early 2015. The townhomes, which will cost roughly $500,000, will generate a combined $250,000 in real estate taxes annually for the village, he said.
Resident Leslie Lauderdale said she is concerned that financing could fall through on the project.
"My concern with any development in the area is there has been a tremendous amount of development that started and did not complete in a timely fashion," she said.
Schiess told residents that the development is well capitalized and financing is secure.
While she likes the sketches Schiess showed at the meeting, Lauderdale said the project was architecturally underwhelming.
"We live in Oak Park, which is an area with great history and unique architecture, and we're putting a whole lot of money on a project that at its best is inoffensive," she said.
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