Back to the drawing board on Maple Ave. condo

Village board tells development group to work on design

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

A proposal to build a 10-unit luxury condo development at the corner of Chicago and Maple avenues was pushed back by the Oak Park village board Monday.

Trustees told Oak Park-based Altierra Development Group to do more work on the design of the proposed 62-foot-tall building.

Village President Anan Abu-Taleb suggested that the development group's architect, John Schiess, work with one of his critics, Garret Eakin, another local architect, on refining the project. Eakin also writes a monthly architecture column for Wednesday Journal.

Eakin suggested that the project include ground-level retail instead of the proposed parking garage, which he said would create a "dead zone" in the area.

"Twenty four indoor parking spaces fill the ground floor, so the whole ground floor, less the lobby, is all parking," Eakin said. "That's a real visual delight if you can imagine it," he said sarcastically.

He also said the project was too dense and mediocre in design, "essentially a decorated box."

"The red brick-and-cement masonry units seem anonymous, having little to do with adjacent neighbors," Eakin said. "The massive block is completely disrespectful to the community and the grand history that we are all so proud of and why we live here."

Paul Zimmermann, a partner with Altierra, reminded board members that the project takes a "blighted property" that pays property taxes of $10,000 per year and turns it into a luxury development expected to generate $180,000 in property taxes annually.

Abu-Taleb said Schiess should meet with Eakin to work out differences on the density and design of the development. The village board gave the odd couple a short time frame to return to the board.

"We need to send a message to the community that Oak Park is open for business … but in the meantime we don't want it to be at the expense of the current tenants and the business owners and the residents and so forth," Abu-Taleb said.


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Incomplete Foreclosures  

Posted: June 12th, 2014 3:57 PM

Arent some of the principals behind this project the same people that had some of their development(s) go into foreclosure?

FLW district res  

Posted: June 12th, 2014 12:18 PM

@FLW puuuhlease- the fact is those condos will be empty. Nobody in their right mind would pay $18k in taxes per yr. plus association fees. Really. Furthermore, if you look at the history of the architect's shananagins & tacky designs you would not be commenting. Google the guy. The proposed structure is an embarrassment to Oak Park. We have so many brilliant architects in Oak Park & Chicago. Why do we have to use a "design incompetent" one? Did he have a 2 for 1 deal?

FLW Puhleaase  

Posted: June 12th, 2014 7:57 AM

A driver away from the District? "Hey I came from Germany to see the FLW homes but this condo building is too high and I think I'll go back to Chicago". Said no one.

Miller from Oak Park  

Posted: June 12th, 2014 7:27 AM

The design presented was a faux prairie style monstrosity. I'm so tired of these builders "designing" buildings that "fit in" with the local FLW architecture. You can't replicate FLW. Can't you find an architect who can design something contemporary? Why not ask Chicago architects in the vein of John Ronan (poetry Foundation) or Jeanne Gang (the Wave) to work on a design. Make a contemporary design and not something fake.

Concerned Oak Park neighbor from Oak Park  

Posted: June 11th, 2014 11:44 PM

I'm grateful the Village Board sent this boxy, out-of-character development back to the drawing board rather approve a slew of variances. Surprised and grateful. A site so close to the FLW Home & studio and an important historic district deserves much better.


Posted: June 11th, 2014 12:25 PM

Eakin, or should I say Mr. Sour Grapes, sounds angry that he didn't get the project. Anything on that corner would be an improvement over the empty lot with chain link fence around it. The Village is WAY too involved in the day-to-day in this town.

Lucy's Folks from Oak Park  

Posted: June 11th, 2014 10:34 AM

Modify the shell, but keep the parking on the ground floor. Expensive units will ONLY sell if they include garage parking, and the last thing the village needs is more empty retail space. People who don't like the density should look around in other suburbs with great retail areas like Lombard or Highland Park and realize that with some density you get more support for the sort of retail we say we want here. And it can be done in a manner becoming our village.


Posted: June 11th, 2014 10:00 AM

Lets not forget this building will be a driver away from the FLW Home and Studio and district.

Frustrated Driver from Oak Park  

Posted: June 11th, 2014 8:55 AM

I am concerned at the big picture of all this new development, at the same time we (OP) are fighting the widening of the Ike. We continue to add density but the Ike is already backed up to Rush Hospital everyday. At the same time the City is converting once drivable streets into bike lanes. Yesterday, I drove from downtown to OP on Lake Street and didn't see one single bike. All this is to say that we are becoming to dense and need to let off some steam!

Dan Lauber from River Forest  

Posted: June 10th, 2014 11:29 PM

I'd rather not get into a debate with some anonymous coward, but public notices for the hearings on this development were sent to all property owners within 500 feet, no matter which village they live in. I'm probably in the neighborhood of the development than 90% of those commenting here -- and zoning law recognizes that it's not just residents of a village that have an interest in development. No village is an island unto itself.


Posted: June 10th, 2014 8:19 PM

I agree that 10 units producing $180,000 in taxes does sound a little funny. I wonder how many Oak Park condo owners pay $18,000 a year in taxes.


Posted: June 10th, 2014 6:26 PM

In regard to the parking issue. Yes that building needs good parking. The train is a good walk away, and you don't be a condo in that location to eliminate cars. That neighborhood, by the way, is loaded with parking garages under housing structures. I don't like many of Shiss's stuff, but Paul Zimmerman's reminder that vacant lots dont bring in taxes is reality.


Posted: June 10th, 2014 6:22 PM

Eacan is not a local architect, he is a journalist with the Wed. Journal. He has not degree in economic development, and should not be part of the discussion.

woof woof  

Posted: June 10th, 2014 6:13 PM

Does this include getting rid of doggy day play? If so I'm for it. Nothing worse than seeing haughty libs trotting their dogs off to be treated better than the Syrian refugees.

Chuck Mann from Oak Park  

Posted: June 10th, 2014 5:40 PM

Actually this proposed design sounds quite similar to where I live (the Mews at Oak Park, adjacent to downtown.) I haven't heard anyone complain about our building - in fact, I've heard several compliments on it. And off-street parking for your car is one reason I chose to buy my unit.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 10th, 2014 4:19 PM

Are the WJ Comments only for Oak Park residents? Is Oak Park Townshipers also excluded because they provide services to River Forest? Beware of frivolous ordinances, If not careful, there will be a law requiring a period of time living in the village before you can post. Fifty years sound right! Actually I welcome Dan or anyone with ideas no matter where they live. OP need all the help it can get.,

Scott from Oak Park  

Posted: June 10th, 2014 4:19 PM

So the developer was going to include parking and the local architect tells them to dump the parking? How local is this architect? That is a tight area to begin with, where are the people going to park that would buy these "luxury" condos? Plus, why try to cram in 10 condos in that area? Seems way to small of an area for 10 condos.

To Dan Lauber  

Posted: June 10th, 2014 3:58 PM

Dan, while it is true that this is a comment section for all. Your opinions don't mean much since you don't even live in town.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 10th, 2014 3:16 PM

This article says that these 10 condos are going to generate $180K in property taxes. That's roughly $18K per condo. High-end condos. What current condos on the market would they be competing with?

Dan Lauber from River Forest  

Posted: June 10th, 2014 3:13 PM

This building is simply too tall and too bulky to fit into this neighborhood -- it does change the character of the neighborhood. If the developer can't submit a proposal without a slew of variances, he simply overpaid for the property and the people who live nearby and who frequent the neighborhood should not have an incompatible structure imposed on them.

Real Estate Speculator  

Posted: June 10th, 2014 3:04 PM

I'm wondering about a mix of condos no one wants to buy (to drive down the value of existing condos), with the added bonus of first floor retail that remains empty forever. Has anyone thought of that option?

Voter from Oak Park  

Posted: June 10th, 2014 3:04 PM

A 6 story box with cars parked at ground level, how is this described as 'luxury'? We don't want developers that just want to make a quick buck while defacing the town!

Eileen Fein from Oak Park  

Posted: June 10th, 2014 2:42 PM

I wish the village would hold back on building more condos. The ones we have are not selling and the new ones put real pressure on the existing market.

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