11-story building slated for Harlem and South site

OPEDC to recommend Lincoln Properties as preferred developer

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park Economic Development Corporation will recommend Lincoln Properties with its proposed 11-story mixed-use development for the village-owned corner of Harlem Avenue and South Boulevard.

John Hedges, interim executive director of OPEDC, said in a telephone interview Friday that the economic development group will begin work to develop a term sheet and redevelopment agreement to present the village for consideration within the next couple of weeks.

The proposal will include 250 luxury apartments, some of which will be affordable housing units, Hedges said. Ground-level retail space for the project is 10,000 square feet, but it is too early to determine what will occupy that space, he said.

The building also will include 250 residential and 162 public parking spaces, according to the proposal.

"They have, I think, just a good clean deal," Hedges said of the project that is projected to cost $66.9 million. "The financial aspect was strong, and I think they had a good sense of what we're trying to accomplish."

Hedges said OPEDC has not determined when it will make the recommendation to the village board, but he suspects it will be by the end of June.

He gave few details on what the building would look like, but said the units would probably be from 650 square feet to around 900 to 1,000 square feet, Hedges said.

Lincoln is partnering with RTKL Architecture to design the building, he said.

"I know everybody is anxious to see what this thing looks like, but that will be developed through the redevelopment agreement," Hedges said.

Hedges said he thinks it will take through the end of the year to complete the plan development portion of the project.

"They would be looking to break ground next spring; that is off the cuff, but that is a reasonable time period," he said.

"Lincoln is an international company that has projects all over the place. We're really confident with the company, we're happy they're interested in Oak Park and we're really looking forward to working with them."

Oak Park village planners released five development proposals from four developers earlier this year from Lincoln, Urban R2, Argent Group and North American Properties. The proposals ranged from nine to 14 stories with 204 to 300 apartments.

Efforts to reach Lincoln Properties for comment on Friday were not successful.

Email: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 21st, 2014 1:56 PM

I believe that all three large residential projects being pushed actually reduce the amount of parking available for the public unless we believe the people paying $1,500+ per month for apartments won't have many cars. I think all three projects will build far fewer parking spaces for their tenants than codes require. It's simply inconsistent to say we want more rich people and more shoppers/diners/drinkers while saying we want to make it harder to park.

Brian Chang from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 20th, 2014 4:52 PM

Let me get this straight, we want to encourage people to drive to DTOP by having plentiful parking (preferably supplied via surface lots), yet we also complain about traffic congestion on Lake St?

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 20th, 2014 4:05 PM

Lake Street between Harlem and Forest is painful as a driver. I avoid those two blocks of Lake completely when I'm in my car. Walking however, it's quite pleasant. It will be interesting to see how these three new developments, all with parking, will affect the traffic flow.


Posted: May 20th, 2014 1:36 PM

Congestion, Congestion, Congestion!!!! Any one drove in either direction down Lake St around Marion, Forest, Harlem??? Adding a building at Lake and Foest, Lake and New Street, and South Blvd and Harlem makes for HUGE TRAFFIC CONGESTION. If its already congested, whats going to happen if we add 100's of more cars to the mix? Makes no sense. There are 3 traffic lights from Forest, Marion and Harlem. Traffic DOES NOT FLOW on Lake due to the fact that Harlem lights are timed more so with Harlem.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 19th, 2014 5:44 PM

We (the residents of Oak Park) are the owners of all the property (unless the building/lot to the east is now included). Given the precedent of the proposed deal for the "Colt" site, the land will be donated to the developer or sold for less than its cost (which will also be understated). I can't really tell, because we aren't entitled to see the details of the deal until after it's done. The lack of transparency here is what I started my comments with.

Prior Idea  

Posted: May 19th, 2014 5:11 PM



Posted: May 19th, 2014 4:37 PM

That means the current proposed project is $33 Million MORE dollars than previous. Im sure previous was going to make a profit. Nothing was ever built, so unless the original land owner is selling the land for some incredible profit, why the need to add the extra $33 Million???


Posted: May 19th, 2014 4:34 PM

The original development that was approved in 2007 called for an 8 story mixed use project. Now thats a tad bit better. http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/9-12-2007/Agreement-on-South-Blvd.%2FHarlem-condo-development/

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 19th, 2014 12:20 PM

Our residential architecture is clearly a draw for tourists from around the world. Most of those tourists tour and go back where they came from. What businesses in DTOP specifically appeal to architecture buffs, old-house owners, etc.? Think anybody travels here for this week's variation in yogurt?

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 19th, 2014 12:16 PM

James - Oak Park's heritage is being marketed well by the FLW Trust, mostly for only a few days a year, without much help from the CVB, DTOP, or the Village. Village Hall soundly rejected efforts to join the National Trust Main Street program and buried a paid-for study from the National Trust. Can you think of ANYTHING the Village does to promote heritage tourism in DTOP? Might it be that a lot of heritage tourists (although pretty well off) are older than the trendy people being targeted?

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: May 19th, 2014 8:35 AM

"Time to move the OP properties into the tax paying private sector. Then "maybe' our taxes won't go up, up and away. Homeowners and busines will stay." Increasing the tax base will NEVER reduce taxes. It only gives those who spend the tax revenue more things to spend it on. Gov't accounting has no incentive to save money. If you spend a nickel, you want a dime; if you spend a dime, you want a quarter. If you don't spend it all, you won't get it again. This is just more money to be spent.


Posted: May 19th, 2014 8:02 AM

"The Village is full today with tourists come to look at Wright buildings, yet every attempt to market Oak Park based on heritage and arts tourism is suppressed because it might stand in the way of maximizing somebody's profit." Sounds like there's plenty of tourists and the way its being marketed is working; just not how you would particularly like it.

Mike Lennox from Oak Park  

Posted: May 18th, 2014 8:37 PM

OP go for it !!! Time to move the OP properties into the tax paying private sector. Then "maybe' our taxes won't go up, up and away. Homeowners and busines will stay. When is the next property being sold?

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 18th, 2014 7:30 PM

When the shell of the Mar-Lac house (the old Warrington Opera House building) was still there, I suggested an arts center for the site, incorporating that building and the Housing Center offices next door, with a mid-rise residential building at the rear. I still think the general area would be great for a performance/gallery space, as a regional and after-hours attraction. The building Hamburger Mary's just passed on (a former movie theater by E.E. Roberts) might be good for that.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 18th, 2014 6:57 PM

Finally, I guess I think it might be possible to get what I suggest (except for the public parking) by granting zoning relief and without direct cash subsidies or donation of land.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 18th, 2014 6:55 PM

Jack - I'd initially suggest something about six stories with apartments for a mix of income levels (market and affordable), space for "convenience" retail, sufficient parking for the apartments and retail, and additional parking for DTOP retail and attractions. I'd also like "quality" exterior finishes: brick, stone, etc. Too, I think the design should draw a clear line between the new development and the residential area to the south, with some screening/protection for the residential area.

Brian Chang from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 18th, 2014 3:18 PM

It would be helpful to know how much additional automobile traffic has been generated by the Whiteco residential development. For that matter, how much additional property tax and sales tax revenue generated as well.

Jack Chalabian from Oak Park  

Posted: May 18th, 2014 2:47 PM

Gary Schwab, if you had the ability to influence development at Harlem/South Blvd., what do you want to see built (or not built)?


Posted: May 18th, 2014 12:50 PM

This corner is NOT the right place for a 11 story building. Have you seen the auto congestion in the immediate area? I could understand a 4 to 5 story structure, BUT 11???? Please dont tell me that it HAS to be 11 to make $ense for the developer. Dont put a square peg in a circular spot. Move on please.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 18th, 2014 10:49 AM

It seems to be the "develop at any cost as long as it's upscale" people who don't want to listen to anyone in the community who might have doubts. I listen to everyone. I simply reject assertions that people think should be taken as true because they get made so often.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 18th, 2014 10:44 AM

As for leaving town, I'm not going anywhere. The suggestion brings to mind the whole "America - Love it or Leave it!" bumper sticker campaign (VERY popular in the 60s-70s) saying people who didn't support the Vietnam War should get out. Funny, who was right on that one? And how many people wouldn't have died if the antiwar "extremists" had been listened to? I also seem to remember Mike Royko wondering who's crazy when the lunatics are in the majority. I guess he was another fool.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 18th, 2014 10:37 AM

I've lived in Oak Park since 1978. I served 12 years on a committee and a commission and worked in Village elections for almost 20 years, including being campaign manager for people some of you really like. I've helped found a couple of grass-roots organizations that did pretty well. So, I at least know something of which I speak. I don't claim always to be right, although most of my statements are fact-based. I just don't think other peoples' statements are right because they have money/power.

Paul the Dad from Oak Park  

Posted: May 18th, 2014 9:13 AM

If Gary doesn't like Oak Park, he should move out.

Member of Society  

Posted: May 18th, 2014 6:54 AM

I enjoy the extremists like Gary, the socialists, gun loyalists at any cost, abortion pro and con; all who believe they are right and everyone else is wrong. It's part of the fabric of Oak Park. It acts as a series of checks and balances with a few fragments of the extremists views being implemented. For the extremists there is a comfort in picking a side and not listening to anyone else, it simplifies life.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 8:28 PM

Just because I don't comment here often, it doesn't mean I've been sleeping. Once again, trying to teach pigs to sing is pointless and frustrating. I do watch all that goes on and occasionally here and other places try to offer something other than clich%uFFFDs and personal attacks. To paraphrase singer Greg Brown: Never say America can't solve its problems. Any country that can build a 3000-mile long strip mall in 50 years can do anything.

Barry H from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 7:43 PM

Gary S has emerged from his deep sleep! And he presents the same old tired arguments of years past. Please, Oak Park, move forward with these developments. They will bring needed density to our downtown (good for all of our businesses) and added tax revenue to our Village.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 5:28 PM

As time goes by, and more and more of the world becomes just more "upscale" concrete, Oak Park's historic character as a slowly-evolved railroad/streetcar suburb, with buildings the 21st century can't build, gives us a competitive advantage. Chipping away at that heritage will make us a LESS COMPETITIVE housing choice. Of course, if future citizens can be trained not to lift their noses from their personal electronic devices, their actual physical surroundings could become irrelevant.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 5:18 PM

By the way, my point is that Oak Park does not benefit from Anan and friends repeating, over and over, that criticizing or debating any proposed development will result in Oak Park becoming Detroit. Oak Park is a built-up residential community and no reasonable amount of new development will make it a cheap place to live. Of course, there's always my perennial proposal to tear down the poorer half of the Village and get an outlet mall and casino...

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 5:13 PM

One of the best ways to discourage voting is to tell people you want to hear their opinions and then make it clear you won't pay attention. I played a major role in the NLP/NLC, the only political effort that has ever taken control from the VMA in 52 years. The "powers that be" quickly co-opted some of the people elected and got them to reverse strongly stated campaign positions. This convinced many people who worked hard in that election that people who say they believe in democracy don't.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 5:03 PM

Gary - I agree. It is the voters are responsible for the people they choose to have represent them. For two decades, we had bad government. It was not a coincidence that the economic decline in the village occurred while voting in local elections was a disgrace. It was rare to see a voter turnout reach 20% of the registered voters. The disgrace was less in 2013. Largely driven by the Anan vote, the voter percentage reach 23%. A step in the right direction, but not enough call Oak Park voters representative.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 4:55 PM

If present demographics and trends prevail, perhaps we should prepare to be a fortified, affluent enclave surrounded by people living in makeshift shacks. In that case, we should probably be planning to have our own army.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 4:51 PM

Oak Parkers of today should have a choice of trying to guide their community's growth into what they want it to be, instead of just blindly, stupidly, following "trends and demographics" as defined to them by rich, greedy people and others who just like to pal around with rich, greedy people.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 4:47 PM

Back around 1970, the experts looking at markets and demographics said Oak Park would resegregate and become just another part of the crime-ridden, disinvested West Side (where I was living). Properties were redlined and values declined. Some Oak Parkers at that time chose to try to pick their own future. With energy, imagination, and a good bit of luck, they succeeded sufficiently that we're having this argument.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 3:22 PM

The 1990 Comprehensive Plan...well, while I do think history is important and we can learn from it, may I suggest that what was planned 24 years ago may no longer apply? Looking at the demographics and trends a quarter century in to the future, rather than the past, is perhaps more helpful in regards to planning.

My Brain Hurts from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 3:19 PM

Gary, I've read all of your comments, and have what I feel is a legitimate question....What is your point? Thank you.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 1:23 PM

None of the "upscale" trendy businesses being proposed will be any kind of regional attraction. Brew pubs, restaurants offering the odd new food of the month, and organic yogurt shops are pretty easy to find around Chicago. The Village is full today with tourists come to look at Wright buildings, yet every attempt to market Oak Park based on heritage and arts tourism is suppressed because it might stand in the way of maximizing somebody's profit.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 1:16 PM

Actually, Oak Park had around 70,000 people at one point. Greater population brings municipal prosperity only if new people pay more in taxes than they consume in services. Hence, the Village looks to attract well-off compulsive consumers. They want to turn what's been a family-oriented, economically-diverse community into a community of trendy transients. When Oak Park becomes just another plastic gentrified community, what will be our special attraction?

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 1:09 PM

Additional density in the places already too dense is a problem. The 1990 Comprehensive Plan called for some large developments, but spread over larger areas. Perhaps this is why that plan's being ignored in the new one. Driving through DTOP isn't fun, and the current projects all REDUCE public parking. When we had more people, they had fewer cars. Thinking that people paying over $1,500/month rents won't have (multiple) cars is delusional.

John Murtagh  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 12:31 PM

Excellent point, Bridget.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 12:09 PM

Gary, Are you saying that desiring a higher density is a problem? OP currently has 10,000 *less* people than it did 50 years ago.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 11:20 AM

A community is NOT a business. If we want to run Oak Park as a modern business, when do we start the honest discussion of getting rid of the people who are "in excess of current needs?" I do not want to live in the "City of Mahagonny" (any more than I must already).

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 11:16 AM

Lots of people, even quite rich people, choose Oak Park for the ambience of existing neighborhoods. Why, then, do we want to dilute this with extreme density and bad architecture? Every dollar spent making unsupportable claims for big projects, claims even the developers are ashamed to make, is a dollar that could be used for essential services or reducing municipal debt. If the Village is broke, it's because it's spent many millions on development with little measurable benefit.

john murtagh  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 11:08 AM

Gary - Some people choose Oak Park because of it wonderful neighborhoods!

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 11:06 AM

Capitalism's working fine for a tiny few. Almost everyone else is losing ground daily. Cross Austin Boulevard and see how well capitalism works there (my old neighborhood). As for quality of life, I quote Guy Davenport (as quoted by Wendell Berry): "Money has no eyes, no ears, no respect; it is all gut, mouth, and ass."

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 10:59 AM

I'm living in a house built before Oak Park existed as a municipality. It, and others like it, were built individually by people who lived here and would have looked askance at anyone trying to build big ugly stuff. They'd also, of course, have looked askance at "diversity," but that's a separate issue. The fact remains that people come from around the world to see the neighborhoods these old WASPs built. No one comes here to look at Whiteco, unless they're pining for Novo Zagreb.

John Murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 10:55 AM

I agree with the comments about the poor planning and worse of execution of OP development. For two decades, a single political party ruled the village and made colossally bad financial decisions. The public got the message in 2013 and elected an independent as village president (Anan). He took office with a $100M outstanding loans, a dangerously low fund balance,and a village hall that was bloated and in disarray. The village is now headed in the right direction. Give him a chance.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 10:52 AM

Without government regulation, developers will take any place, level it, and replace it with whatever makes them the most money in the short term. Simple, honest observation shows that anyone thinking developers care at all about preserving communities and their built character is ignoring reality. People living in a community have a right to decide its future. They shouldn't be taxed to pay for their own exclusion and diminished quality of life.

Member of Society  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 10:51 AM

I find the disdain for developers and government aka "the man" quite amusing. Unless you are living under a bundle of twigs on unclaimed land somewhere and living off that land, your living quarters and your source of food were once planned and built by governmental agencies and/or someone who made a profit by taking some risk "developers." Capitalism and democracy is not for the faint of heart but it seems to be working pretty well so far.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 10:44 AM

We're being told that the future of Oak Park is in really expensive new apartments for young people with lots of money, no kids, and a mindless desire to spend money on the fads of the day. I wonder how many of these people really exist. We're being told that these people will flock here if rents are a little less than along Lake Michigan. Perhaps global warming is worse than most think and Oak Park is about to become a lake shore again really soon.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 10:39 AM

The main reason why DTOP development's been unsuccessful is that our "leaders," all claiming to be true believers in free markets, have tried to promote levels of gentrification that markets just won't support. While similar suburban downtowns, during the recent "boom," have gotten reasonable, mostly inoffensive condos and retail. Oak Park has tried to become River North, the Loop, or Wicker Park/Bucktown.

Jeff from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 9:46 AM

Gary, there is actually a certain truth to your words although you are being sarcastic. What have all the committees, oversight and government meddling achieved but to have a patchwork of development and a downtown that is less used than Forest Park next door. Every penny that is spent on lawyers is one less for building a quality project.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 9:04 AM

Why don't we be honest and really save the taxpayers' money by abolishing zoning, planning, code, and preservation activities in Village Hall? If the purpose of these departments is to provide "Customer Service" to developers, I'm sure most developers, if honest, would say regulators can be of most service by going away. I'm sure the newly constituted OPEDC can give taxpayers' money to developers without help.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 8:58 AM

Whiteco proposed a building design, got it approved and built something worse: the Village let them and defended them. RSC (the "1120 Club") proposed a design, got it approved, and built something worse; the Village let them and defended them for a while before suing them. John Schiess proposed a design for the "Opera Club," got it approved, and built something taller and with different bricks; the Village let him. Now we want to be easier on the poor developers.

OP Transplant  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 7:03 AM

John - My suspicion is that they will minimize the impact on traffic congestion by this project never getting built.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 16th, 2014 10:45 PM

It will be interesting to see how the village handles the existing traffic congestion at Harlem. Don't see anyway that there will be an exit from the eleven story building on the Harlem side and the mass transit (buses and train pickups) on the south side makes it very difficult to add more traffic. The trestle area is a nightmare during rush hours; particularly if you want to go north.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 16th, 2014 10:29 PM

Gary - There is probably some risk involved in the process changes designed to speed development, but the risk is better than the slow, confused, processes that were used until now. I am in favor of an accelerated approval process, but only if the President and Board give the full impact and risks of every project. That will be the test.


Posted: May 16th, 2014 9:08 PM

While I am glad to see this project moving forward, there was talk of past projects utilizing Maple Avenue across to the other village lot. Is that still part of the deal? Would like to maintain pedestrian access through Maple if it does.

Gary schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2014 8:12 PM

It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2014 8:10 PM

Bridgett- The project is being presented by OPEDC because Anan has said that deals like this can't be made in public (it scares the developers). Recent history and the recent reorganization to place planning, zoning, code administration, and preservation under "Development Customer Service" make it clear that neither public input nor criticisms from the Plan Commission will be welcomed, encouraged, or at all effective. Remember the line about not trying to teach a pig to sing.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2014 7:46 PM

@Gary, Nothing has been approved. The article says that the OPEDC will present it to the Village Board by the end of June.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2014 7:26 PM

I guess the new emphasis on encouraging developers has gotten to approving and promoting projects before they've even been designed. Sort of like the Defense Department buying airplanes before they were fully designed (concurrent development). That's been a great success. Can you say "pig in a poke?"

Adam Smith  

Posted: May 16th, 2014 7:25 PM

I would like to hear more about the specifics of this project but this is one of the best developer/architectural teams to even consider doing business in Oak Park. Good luck.

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