Developer proposes $70 million retail, apartment plan for Colt site in downtown Oak Park

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By Deborah Kadin

Contributing Reporter

Oak Park has always taken a liking to diversity.

And now it very well may have several choices to ponder as the village government begins exploring how to redevelop the Colt Building site and adjacent property near the western edge of downtown Oak Park.

On Monday the village board heard a broad proposal from Clark Street Development, the "preferred developer" for the site. That mixed use proposal called for a combination of retail, luxury apartments and parking on the site which stretches from Lake Street to North Boulevard.

Trustees then voted to also seek alternative proposals for the 81,000 square foot area rather than strictly remain with Clark Street Development.

The Chicago-based firm was tapped in 2007 as the preferred developer to recast the area, which now principally consists of two popular surface parking lots.

A request seeking proposals from other firms will be sent out later this week; proposals will be due back in early June, Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said.

Clark Street was selected in a competitive process, one of the many requirements for development in a Tax Increment Finance district. But officials felt strongly that especially because the economic world has changed since 2007, the board needed additional due diligence to ensure the best use of the space, said Loretta Daly, Oak Park's manager of business services.

"We want to get to see what's out there," Daly said.

Economic conditions have changed dramatically since Clark Street was tapped. As some conversations began, a major recession hit, halting development almost everywhere. Throughout that time, the village still kept up the relationship with the firm, Daly said. No financial negotiations had taken place and no specific concepts had been explored, she added.

With the improvement of the economy in recent months, discussions had begun anew, Daly said. And Clark Street had proposed bringing forward to the board a concept for the site.

That development concept, presented Monday night, would include retail, as many as 250 apartments, a structured parking garage and a long promised new road – Station Street - that would link North Boulevard and Lake Street.

Clark Street's Andy Stein said the parcel nearest Lake Street would focus on retail with three or four floors of apartments on top. Across Westgate, a structure including parking, apartments and possibly some retail would be built. Stein said a bridge would connect the north and south ends of the development. No estimates of the height of the south structure were offered.

Stein estimated the total investment in the project at $70 million to $80 million.

The layout would allow for multiple access points to Metra, the CTA Green Line and allow for both walking and auto access, said Stein. "It would be complementary to the existing retail in the area," he added.

The village bought the 1930s-era Colt Building for nearly $5 million in 2006 after the village and the building owner could not agree on a redevelopment plan for the property. A slim majority of village trustees and preservationists hoped to save it and return it to its original art-deco arcade style with small shops.

Eventually that structure and two other adjoining buildings were razed in 2009. The area then was turned into temporary surface parking as Oak Park waited to develop the site. It has been parking ever since.

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John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 14th, 2013 10:27 AM

Woops! Read my calendar wrong. Pope was still President when the letter was signed - Monday, May 6, 2013.


Posted: May 14th, 2013 9:47 AM

The issue of dedicating property taxes for infrastructure improvements specific to the Colt Westgate site has not been discussed in any public board meeting. How then, can anyone board member request an amendment to the 2011 DTOP TIF Settlement Agreement without prior review and approval of the board? Yes, the letter is dated May 6 and signed by David Pope as Village President, which is after his term expiration. What is going on?

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 14th, 2013 2:41 AM

The letter is dated May 6th, and is signed, David as President, and Anan is President Elect.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 14th, 2013 12:17 AM

The letter to D200 was written after Pope had left office so I don't see how it can have any validity. Would be interesting to know if the board and village manager was aware of the letter. This attempted transaction is exactly the lack of transparency that caused problems for previous boards. I hope this isn't "here we go again." Does the change mean that Sertus is no longer the favored development?

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 10:34 PM

TIF Zombie Lives: on this Tuesday's (May 14) D200 BoE agenda, is a letter from Pope & Abu-Taleb (May 6) requesting an amendment to the 2011 DTOP TIF Settlement Agreement that would divert future development-specific property taxes to site-specific infrastructure improvements (Station St.) at the Colt Westgate site, so as to "mirror the current language in the agreement that applies to the Lake and Forest site." This is a blatant attempt to revive the DTOP TIF zombie for Clark Street Development.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 3:03 PM

Hi Enuf - I agree that the liquor issue stole some attention to the Clark Project, but because of the Liquor ordinance being 1st on the agenda, a lot of people stayed to listen . A lot more than is usually there for a Monday night two item meeting. There was no sign of any enthusiam.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 11:54 AM

The Clark St. proposal is very vague, and insufficient to allow legitimate alternate proposals to be solicited . Alternate to what? Potential post-DTOP TIF village subsidies in the form of land write-downs and new infrastructure improvements (Station St. and a parking garage) need to be well-detailed before proceeding any further. Can't help but think the liquor ordinance amendment issue served as a distraction from the amazingly vague Clark St. proposed redevelopment.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: May 4th, 2013 8:37 AM

The reason the village is requesting alternate proposals, is because this site is part of the DTOP TIF District, and therefore alternate proposals are required by the IL TIF Act. Clark St. needs to provide much more information on their proposed development, including how much village subsidies they are requesting, including any write down on village-owned property, before a request for alternates proposals may be issued.

Brian Chang from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 1st, 2013 2:01 PM

@Jim, I just realized that you were asking the costs of a surface lot, not a parking structure. Obviously the biggest cost is the opportunity cost of lost tax revenue. Have no idea what the operating costs of a surface lot are.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 1st, 2013 1:57 PM

Thanks, Brian. Any idea what that would total for the Colt lot and how much revenue each parking space might be currently generating? I wonder if Trustee Lueck is looking at projected property and sales tax figures that the development will provide to the Village in comparison to the lot. That has to be a significant number but without more details, we're left to speculate. I wish she had offered additional information when she spoke on Monday. She obviously knows the specifics.

Brian Chang from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 1st, 2013 1:35 PM

A bare-bones above ground parking structure costs about $12-15k per parking spot.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 1st, 2013 12:31 PM

Trustee Lueck, speaking to those who support keeping the Colt lot for surface parking, mentioned that people are not aware of the actual cost per space. She did not elaborate or offer any numbers. That would be useful information to share. Many see the area currently used by shoppers and commuters and may wonder how much revenue is actually being generated. But if indeed the Village is losing money; that's a different story.

4 Freedom  

Posted: May 1st, 2013 9:19 AM

Agree with Done. Let's stop the lies, taking the risks and pretending we can control everthing. If the buyer feels parking will be profitable, so be it. If the businesses want free parking let them form a co-op to bid to buy it and then offer free parking.

4 Freedom  

Posted: May 1st, 2013 9:13 AM

So a community that prides itself on the good it does lacks integrity? Or, am I missing something?

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: May 1st, 2013 8:57 AM

Seriously - it is time to consider packing up and moving out. I already can't afford to live in this town and once a failed multi-story retail/housing development becomes subsidized by residents because of lost revenue, taxes will skyrocket. If someone wants to develop Colt, let them - at 100% of their own investment. We get what will be minimal sales and property tax revenue but at least we won't have to say "Told you so".


Posted: May 1st, 2013 7:18 AM

No one really expects this site to be destination shopping. Destination shopping is necessary to justify TIF projects. TIF which relies upon increased sales (on site and the entire community) that does not impact existing shops. If the new stores steal sales form existing stores the TIF funds are going down the toilet.


Posted: April 30th, 2013 11:57 PM

Sure, 4F, the one thing that is sure to enhance the livability of a place is to cram it with more people....

4 Freedom  

Posted: April 30th, 2013 11:35 PM

I am probably beating a dead horse but I agree destination shopping is a lost cause. How do you compete with Michigan Ave by train and Oak Brook by car? I would say leverage the Wright districts intl draw but too many churches and housing interupt the flow. Oak Park's best draw is that its already a great place to live if you can afford it. Why not leverage that by attracting more residents into area by making it cheaper to live here for everyone?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 30th, 2013 10:02 PM

The developers' pitch was focused on how the additional shops would attract non-Oak Park shoppers. That is, we would be a destination for shoppers. That is a 15 year old pitch that has never been proven in terms of village sales tax and property tax revenue.

OP Rez  

Posted: April 30th, 2013 9:55 PM

I suppose I'll just continue parking the in free River Forest lot across the street, and venture over to Oak Park to do my shopping.

OP Rez  

Posted: April 30th, 2013 9:53 PM

We already have empty store fronts... the old Borders, and the 2 new additions at Oak Park and Lake. How does building more retail space, when we can't even fill what we have, make sense? As for the diversity this building is suppose to house, there is more housing need for the aging population and the disabled in Oak Park than there is for low income renters. How much rental space does the village think they can fill? And what happens to parking once they demolish the current parking?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 30th, 2013 4:12 PM

After seeing last night presentation, I think developers need to have a time limit as well as residents. I do recognize that a developer might need more time than a resident, so give them five minutes. Last night's presentation had about 4-5 minutes of substance. The rest was cliches and redundancy.

4 Freedom  

Posted: April 30th, 2013 4:11 PM

@Jenna is there evidence of the demand and lack of supply? I know in our building people have difficultly selling or renting out thier units which have all of the qualities you list. Sure we can buy our renters, but doesn't the tax base needed to support those renters also prohibit people with money coming to the community? People said I was crazy for moving here because of the taxes. They may have been right.

Jenna Brown Russell from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 30th, 2013 3:19 PM

In 1960, the village had 61k people, in 2011, less than 52k. Our population continues to shrink. If we fall below 50k people, we will lose many infrastructure subsidies. Trying to halt being a shrinking town, while others are growing, requires either larger families or housing density. Locating large units nearby public transit is an attempt to attract additional populations without proportional vehicles. Smaller units are ideal for getting younger populations with more dining and retail dollars. I realize that Oak Park may seem crowded, but we have been shrinking for some time.

Brian Chang from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 30th, 2013 2:53 PM

As an FYI, the Greater Downtown Master Plan, rolled out in 2005 with great fanfare proposes an increase of 1200 residential units in DTOP.


Posted: April 30th, 2013 2:51 PM

After the fight over the 200 feet building still only proposed for Lake and Forest, the lack of an estimate by Clark Street for the height of the south building certainly should raise a red flag. Plus, the prospective developer wants the features of the proposed Station Street to mirror everything on Marion Street. Is the cost included in the $70, or will taxpayers of Oak Park finance that too?

Dan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 30th, 2013 2:46 PM

I appreciate the need for a development on this site that would offer additional retail to the area and increase revenue for the village. However, where is the need for 200+ 1-2 bedroom apartments? There is Whiteco, Soho & the Lake & Forest development within blocks of this site. Why add to that density? There is enormous parking demand at this site and it can not be met with 200 units in addition to the added retail. Not all developments need to be massive mixed use projects.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 30th, 2013 2:21 PM

Once again, a developer mentions only studio,1 & 2-bedroom units. When a board member mentioned a need for 3-bedroom units, the developer took that to mean a desire for "penthouse" apts. Evidence that we have a major disconnect between who people think Oak Parkers R, and who they really R. The need for 3-bedroom units isn't 4 luxury. They are 4 folks like families who R willing to sacrifice squ. footage & house amenities like a yard and a porch, in order to still be able to afford to live here.

Dan Lauber  

Posted: April 30th, 2013 1:51 PM

Great opportunity for Oak Park to implement its current comprehensive plan and require that 15-20% of the units be affordable to teachers, librarians, seniors, recent college grads, and other households with modest incomes. The plan calls for housing people of all ages and incomes, and for an economically diverse housing stock. The village owns the land -- so it can require inclusive housing in accord with its adopted policies. It's time for Oak Park to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

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