A public hearing Wednesday was a trial of complaints and concerns for The Regency Club, the proposed 7-story condominium development on the Bank One parking lot at the corner of Marion and Ontario Streets.
Because the project meets all zoning requirements, the hearing was a courtesy session, though a rambunctious one.
John Schiess, architect for the project, plans to break ground in July to build the 84-unit condominium building.
The Regency Club will face Marion Street. Just behind it though is the 3-story, 1920s era Sanctuary condominium. According to current plans, Schiess' project will have three commercial spaces on the ground floor of the building with 127 parking spots installed within the building. The development will have two wings, one on Ontario, the other nearer Lake Street, with a raised garden between the two.
Schiess said investor Alex Troyanovsky bought the Bank One property and the proposed development meets all the zoning regulations of Oak Park.
No hearing was mandatory, but the concerns from the neighbors, especially those at The Sanctuary, drove the meeting.
"We knew that the parking lot would eventually be developed," said Bill Adams, a condo owner at The Sanctuary. "But we didn't expect a 7-story monolithic building to stand there?I mean, what will it look like in Downtown Oak Park?"
According to a statement released by the concerned neighbors, The Regency Club is "an over-sized, generic building that is completely out of place and impairs the quality, significance, and entrance to the district."
The statement described the Frank Lloyd Wright district as a world-renowned center of architecture that represents the quintessential character of Oak Park.
"We must recognize that a 7-story building back-to-back with a 3-story building is definitely a unique situation in Oak Park," said Tom Lynch, a longtime condo owner at The Sanctuary.
Bill Wagner, a member of the The Sanctuary condo board, also said that The Regency Club is an "affront" to downtown development guidelines.
"Not only is it an affront to the Frank Lloyd Wright district but it is also an affront to the immediate surrounding neighborhood," he said.
In response, Schiess said the developers are paying special attention to the exterior design of the building to make sure that The Regency Club is not "a big blocky building in the middle of the neighborhood." In addition, he said the raised garden will provide visual relief between the two wings.
Besides the aesthetic aspect of The Regency, the residents of The Sanctuary posed concerns regarding fire hazard.
Under current plans, The Regency Club will have a 15-foot setback from The Sanctuary. For most residents, 15 feet is too narrow.
"We need some breathing space," said Adams. "They are not giving us enough space for fire trucks or ambulances."
Mark Puknitis, deputy fire chief, said the proposed development does not violate any fire codes and poses no special threat. He noted, though, that access to The Sanctuary would be more restricted with The Regency Club in place compared to an open parking lot.
Puknitis said that specific situations require a meticulous examination to determine which fire codes apply but under the current observations, access to any residence in The Sanctuary is possible with the 15 foot setback.