A 20-story hotel and condo tower envisioned for downtown Oak Park may end up being neither, according to a village official.
Village hall and a Chicago-based developer have been working for years to reinvent the northeast corner of Lake and Forest. Sertus Capital Partners owns the corner lot there, and the village owns an aging public garage.
Those talks culminated last year when the village board approved a glass tower, which would include a new public garage at the bottom. Oak Park said it would kick in almost $10 million for parking, along with a $500,000 incentive to get Sertus to build a hotel.
But the project has been mired in delays because of the slow economy and struggling hotel and condo markets. The developer needs to apply for building permits by December, a year behind the original schedule. Now it appears things might be delayed further.
Wednesday Journal has learned that Sertus approached the village earlier this month with the possibility of swapping out both the hotel and the condo portions of the development, while keeping the two-story retail space at the bottom.
Village Planner Craig Failor told the Oak Park Plan Commission last week that it may need to start discussing the project again in the future because of a change in use.
"Obviously the condo market isn't doing well," Failor told Wednesday Journal Monday night. "So just based on the market realities, they saw there needed to be a change in their programming."
Sertus is considering the possibility of age-restricted housing in the building, for seniors over the age of 55, along with some high-end apartments. Failor said the talks are preliminary, and the possibility still exists that the hotel or condos could materialize.
The developer hasn't submitted any formal proposed changes to the project, and Failor was unsure when they might. At the latest, they have until Dec. 15, when Sertus needs to apply for building permits. Failor also expects the developer to apply for another extension.
"If they reprogram everything, they probably won't be ready for December," Failor said.
Michael Glazier, principal of Sertus, declined to comment when reached Friday. He spoke candidly about the challenges the project faces during a public meeting in March.
"The economy is still an issue — particularly for housing hotels, it's difficult," Glazier told trustees in March. "I will say, however, there's a bit of a thaw now in terms of there being investor interest."
Village President David Pope, who has been a vocal proponent of the project, declined to comment Monday night until he first spoke with Glazier. Pope could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning.