Townhouses planned for YMCA parking lot

More than 100 parking spots rented by residents would be cut


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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

A proposed development for 22 townhouses on a parking lot owned by the West Cook YMCA will be formally submitted to the village board on April 5.

And Oak Park developer John Schiess, principal of JCSD LLC, the firm proposing the development, will hold a public meeting on Tuesday April 8, at Oak Park Public Library to present the plan to the public.

West Cook YMCA Board President David Phelps says the YMCA was approached by the firm about year ago to purchase the property. The parking lot — bounded by Randolph Street, Wisconsin Avenue, Washington Boulevard and Home Avenue —provides space for 164 vehicles. Of those, 120 are rented to nearby residents.

The remaining parking spaces are used by staff and residents of the YMCA, Phelps said.

JCSD and the YMCA, he added, are still negotiating the purchase of the property. Phelps declined to elaborate on details.

A preliminary proposal sent to village planners includes adding a single-family residence at 317 Home to the development to provide street frontage to the proposed townhouses, Village Planner Craig Failor says. Cars will still access the townhouses through the adjacent alley.

The residence has an estimated market value of roughly $510,000, according to the Cook County Assessor's website.

Failor said that along with the residence, the footprint of the project is 48,900 square feet. Failor could not provide renderings of the project but said the two- and three-bedroom townhouses would have brick exteriors with cementitious panels. Failor could not give the square footage of the townhouses but said they would be three stories tall.

The proposal requests shutting down a portion of the alley that runs between the parking lot and the residence, Failor said, who added that the village is concerned about the impact the removal of the rented parking spaces will have on the neighborhood. But since it is a private deal, Failor said, "The village isn't involved in managing the parking."

"It's my understanding that John Schiess has identified other parking lots that may be available for parking — he will present that to the Plan Commission," Failor said.

Schiess said in an email response to questions that JCSD has agreed to relocate 24 spaces for YMCA parking but did not indicate where. JCSD also will work with the village to find off-street overnight parking spots and has already identified 53 spaces that may be available for rental. 

Schiess noted in the email that purchase of the property is a "private transaction from one private entity to another," adding that "while we believe the burden of relocating the displaced parkers should not fall on the developer, JCSD LLC agrees to facilitate the village's efforts to find suitable off-street parking for local residents."

JCSD is asking for variances on setbacks to the property as well as requirements that the development include an open space component, such as a park.

The developer will offer "compensating benefits" to mitigate for the impact the variances will have on the neighborhood, such as improvement of alleys and providing pedestrian walkways to the townhouses from the public street, Failor said.

According to Phelps, he has little information about the proposal and has been working with JCSD primarily on the purchase of the land.

The lot, which is across the street and a block south from the West Cook YMCA at 255 S. Marion — nestled behind single-family homes and out of view from the streetscape, hence its nickname, the "Donut Hole" — was purchased about 20 years ago for potential programming purposes, according to Phelps.

"But we haven't used it for anything but rental parking for people in the neighborhood," he said. "We have to pay property taxes and income taxes on that revenue, and it's not our core business."

The YMCA, Phelps said, determined that it was unlikely to ever build anything on the property, such as a childcare facility, "because we would have to own the adjoining property. We don't envision long-term that the YMCA would be able to use that property."

Failor said that after the formal plan is submitted to the village at Monday's board meeting, the proposal will be forwarded to the Plan Commission, which is expected to discuss it at its meeting on May 1.


Reader Comments

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Posted: September 23rd, 2014 12:42 PM

How will this effect the owners of the surrounding condos? Will it raise the property value at all???

Kelly from Oak Park  

Posted: May 20th, 2014 4:37 PM

Seriously. Its already so inconvienent trying to find parking in oak park as it is anyway. Renting or owning. it almost makes me not want to live here anymore. You can't even have guests over because we are buidling more and more crap and having less room for anything.


Posted: April 27th, 2014 3:01 PM

@Concerned Nothing will be replaced. There is no entrance off of Home--only through the alleys. The address on Home is what gives the development a spot in the street numbering system. At least that was the explanation at the meeting.

Concerned home owner from Oak Park  

Posted: April 27th, 2014 2:47 PM

Living on the 300 block of Home Ave, we do not need our historic neighborhood destroyed by replacing a home with a town-home entrance. Let us see the other projects be completed such as Home/South blvd and Lake and Forest.


Posted: April 9th, 2014 12:23 PM

I was at the meeting last night. It's 22 units w/garages along the outer walls and units facing an inner courtyard. Nearly the entire lot will be a walled off 3 story compound (with roof decks). Some landscaping and lighting but very little open green space. Approx 2800 sq ft units that will go for around $500,000. An odd choice. The presentation was sound. Just a dumb idea. Especially considering the negative impact on the neighborhood.

paula from Oak park  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 11:22 AM

I think its a travisty to have to project go forward without any reagard to the displacement of 164 parkers who use this lot on a daily basis, its close to their residence which is why they park there. Has the village thought of where these people are going to park once this is is approved. Parking is so limited and for those who live in apartment bldgs the options are few. I dont understand why the village did did not buy this property and make it a village lot .

David Smith from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 6:19 PM

@The Village People from Oak Park: When you have something that will drastically affect the place you live, it tends to make you ask very pointed questions. It makes it personal. There have been several ideas/proposal of what to do with this property in the past. All of which had many discussions around them by the YMCA, residents around them and the village/zoning board. I don't think it was whining, but it was heated discussion due to the way the neighbors were left out from the on-set.

David Smith from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 6:14 PM

@Brian Chang: 1) Not sure how much it would cost, see the market value and ask a real estate agent. 2) You can look that up online. 3) Ask the village to estimate something. 4) When you or the village figure out all those things, let us all know so that we are all enlightened.

The Village People from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 1:38 PM

Has there ever been a proposal for a new business/development in Oak Park that didn't have 20 different people whining about it?

Deb from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 11:45 AM

I am a member at this Y.It is a christian charity. Hell has nothing to do with it.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 9:29 AM

I'm confused. Where is there mention of any tear down in the article? It states "adding a single-family residence at 317 Home to the development to provide street frontage." Which is, addition or deletion?

Brian Lantz  

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 9:11 AM

The journalist has a number of errors in his article which the Village endeavors to correct. Chief among them is tear down of the house on Home. I know the owners and that concept is NOT part of the project. Also, as many in the neighborhood know, condo owners pay taxes just as parking lot owners.

Brian Chang from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 8:36 AM

@David Smith: How much would it cost for the village to buy that lot? How much tax revenue would be lost by removing that property from the tax rolls? How much revenue would be generated by parking fees? I doubt it makes any financial sense for the village to purchase this lot, but it'd be enlightening to see the numbers.


Posted: April 3rd, 2014 6:16 AM

OH NO, not another Sheiss grand idea!! Have we forgotten the other messes he let behind, plus, his architecture style adds nothing to the village. We cannot lose anymore parking spaces. Have all of the already built condos, townhomes, etc. been occupied yet? Do we need more empty buildings & lots that were suppose to be developed? Look at the hot mess on Home & South Blvd, how long has that been sitting as an eyesore? Wasn't Sheiss involved in that mess?

David Smith from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 10:55 PM

That parking is vital to the neigborhood. The use of that parking lot could be improved, but the bottom line is that the parking is the most important issue along with security for that area. If you add that John Sheiss makes lots of claims about doing things that never come to reality, you'll see that this is overall a bad idea. I'd rather see the village purchase it and utilize it as a village lot if the YMCA needs the money and wants to focus on it's core mission.

David Smith from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 10:50 PM

OK ... I'd like to comment on two things: 1) Parking: The parking is deperately needed for the neighborhood. The YMCA utilizes it for both their staff and the residents in the SRO. They state ~20 spaces. Add the other 160 spaces to the blocks surrounding the area to be developed and you/ll see that it's already almost impossible to park. 2) The YMCA has, in the past, not been such a great neighbor. Their last Oak Park proposal included the tear-down of a 140+ year old house, which I owned.

Heinz Schuller from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 10:46 PM

This plan seems really strange. The Home side of this is a row of nice old homes. So we'll tear one down in the middle of the block, and make it the frontage for a 3-story mega-townhouse development? Traffic here is already heavy and parking congested, so we'll add another 50 or so residences, and remove more parking? Wow, I really hope the village takes a close look at the impact on the neighborhood and the developer's track record.

@charlotte continued from oak park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 9:17 PM

furthermore, anyone who has researched a gym or Y should know that there are crazies that enjoy getting up at 4am to work out. I am not one of them, but I know of quite a few, so you shouldn't be appalled by some follwing this path and exercizing at 5am!

@charlotte from oak park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 9:14 PM

perhaps you are having a bad day, but this isn't lake county... if you move to cook county, you should expect some things like this.... while I don't live across the street, I live two blocks away and I must say, I have not experienced what you have. On the positive side, my hopes are you are renting and can rent somewhere else. The Y has always done what it's done and if you did research, you would have been privy to the info, and lifestyle of living across from a Y.

Mary from Forest Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 7:31 PM

Charlotte, I'm sure you must've noticed the 'Y' there when you moved in, right? Also, to suggest that a "hellhole" belongs in Forest Park tells me you haven't been there in quite a while. Sounds like you are the one who might consider moving...

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 6:15 PM

If you think parking in that area is tight now, wait until all those parking spaces are displaced.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 6:07 PM

Unit l recently, I lived across from the Y for over 19 years. I would never describe it as a "hellhole." They were good neighbors, and they provide much-needed services to Oak Park and the surrounding areas. And I know many people/families who are satisfied members.


Posted: April 2nd, 2014 6:04 PM

@Huh? Do you live by the YMCA? I do. Can't walk the streets at night because of all the unsavory people that hang out in front of the building, making noises, disturbing the people that live in the apartments right by it. The building is in terrible shape and they are the most inconsiderate with regards to their neighbors. Holding church services where everyone yells and sings out loud on Sundays to workout classes that disturb people at 5 in the morning with their yelling. They just don't care.

Elephants Memory from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 6:02 PM

Another old Schiess project that fell through sits un-started on North Avenue between Columbian and East. A real eyesore from the tear down that proceeded it.

Brian Chang from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 5:53 PM

JCSD is hosting a neighborhood meeting at the main library on April 8th, 7-8:30 PM to discuss this development.


Posted: April 2nd, 2014 5:50 PM

Charlotte- How is the Y a blight on the whole neighborhood? It isn't perfect, but a hell hole?

no variance  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 5:38 PM

Why does every project require one or more variance? Building codes are there for a reason! I say any project requiring a variance should be turned down. Instead of green space they offer a cement walk as a "compensating benefit". Sorry, I do not see cement as a benefit.


Posted: April 2nd, 2014 5:27 PM

I was so hoping that the YMCA would move. They are nothing but a blight on the whole neighborhood. You have the beauty of Marion Street and all the expense and renovations involved in that and then you have the YMCA which ruins the whole street. I thought that this hell hole was going to move to Forest Park. You'd think with all the money that they scam out of people for joining that they would be able to build a new building away from an area where they are nothing but a big disturbance to all.

Burned by john's townhouses from Oak park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 5:20 PM

Certainly hope the board will scrutinize his plans and then make him stick to them. Our townhouse complex was supposed to have paved alleys, buried power lines, gardens, fences that work, quality light poles, builder upgrades and more. What did we have in reality? Broken gates and light poles, no repaving, no buried lines , no garden space and all possible corners were cut including having to redo the roofs due to leaks. Disappointing to see him build more of these communities in a dense area


Posted: April 2nd, 2014 5:15 PM

This idea is disturbing on a whole variety of levels. Totally willing to hear the full plan, but the developers have some big questions to answer.

Dale from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 4:59 PM

As a Y member, loss of the lot is disturbing. We use that lot year round weekday mornings for two hours while we are in the Y.

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