By Anna Lothson
Clark Street Development was named the preferred developer in 2009, but the steps that will turn the Colt building site, currently a village-owned parking lot, into a retail and residential hot spot are just beginning.
The village board approved moving forward with negotiations last week after no other developers came forward with a proposal. Oak Park's business services manager, Loretta Daly, explained that the village will go through a term-sheet negotiation process, the first of two phases, ending with a formal agreement. The negotiating team will include Daly, Village Manager Cara Pavlicek and Oak Park's chosen legal counsel.
"We won't have specifics," Daly explained. "It's not legally binding. It is simply a broad idea of what we want to see here."
Because the property is owned by the village, Clark Street Development must go through this initial negotiation and the Redevelopment Agreement (RDA) to ensure the village is getting a project that aligns with its downtown master plan. While the term-sheet negotiations tend to be about 10 pages long, the RDA breaks down into specific plans and will be about 40 pages long. The RDA gets into guidelines about what Oak Park and the developer agree upon in terms of number of apartment units, how much retail space will be included and parking requirements.
Beyond that, the development of the site will be vetted at the Oak Park Plan Commission level, allowing ample time for public input, Daly said.
"There will certainly be time for community dialogue around the project," she emphasized.
If plans move forward accordingly, Daly anticipates the term-sheet negotiations to be ready to be reviewed by the board soon. The hope is to have the project specifics finalized by the end of the year and to start site development next spring.
The proposed development for the Colt site would include retail, possibly as many as 250 apartments, a parking garage and a new street that would link North Boulevard and Lake Street. In would also include retail on the bottom floors and be laid out in a way that is expected to be pedestrian-friendly and allow access to Metra and the CTA Green Line. The total investment of the project is expected to be $70-80 million.