Plans move ahead for Colt site in downtown Oak Park


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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

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.

Email: Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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Robert Milstein from Oal Park  

Posted: June 24th, 2013 12:54 AM

Gary Schwab did not help keep the Colt lot empty for ten years. Had the Board 2003-2007, accepted the idea of an Atrium retail restaraunt (VCA supported), which was originally suggested, we'd be dining on the spot today. In addition, plans have been in place for years, they were paid for by TIF funds ,but no one wanted to make them a reality either. Murtaugh is correct. Let the market decide, no subsidies and let the never ending TIF die. It is a great parking lot.

Anna Lothson from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 12:54 PM

@Mimi Jordan. Yes, the previous reference as Trustee Ray Johnson as the "senior trustee" was edited out in the updated version. A comment did question the use of that title. Just for clarification, Trustee Johnson has never referred to himself as that title. I referred to him as that because he is a senior trustee with 10 years experience.

Mimi Jordan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 12:22 PM

Hey, wasn't Mr. Johnson referred to as the "senior trustee" in this article? Why the change? And wasn't there a pithy comment about the use of that title? Why's it gone?

DystOPia from OP  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 8:26 AM

The only reason the village solicited alternate proposals was to meet the requirements of the IL TIF Act. Not surprisingly, since they already have a preferred developer since 2009, no other developer responded. To add to this backward process, Clark St. has significantly revised their original 2009 proposal with one that is too vague to comply with the IL TIF Act as a redevelopment plan. Also, it is not known whether TIF funds are being used so as to comply with the TIF Settlement Agreement.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 10:30 PM

It is noteworthy that the issue of Clark came up in April. That is when the elections were over. It is likely that during the election, which really started last summer, the 2012 president and board members had an embargo on any discussion of the project.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 10:18 PM

Village Resident - Put an other way, Clark could be wondering if they are being played for a sucker.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 10:09 PM

A PATCH article of 6-18-13 lists the business excluded from the Transit Related Retail Overlay Districts (Downtown Oak Park, the Hemingway District and Southtown) by the village board. The list includes: Financial institutions, Financial institution drive-up facility, Private clubs, Drive-through service window, Restaurant with drive-in or drive-through, Swimming pool sales and service, Upholstery shop, Auto service and fueling station, Schools (high school and elementary), Reading rooms, Health, athletic, recreation and amusement facilities (indoor), Auction house, Group quarters, Long-term care facility and assisted living facilities, and Commercial broadcasting facilities. The secondary purpose of the list is to announce to developers the business that the Madison Corridor will gladly accept.

Village Resident  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 9:25 PM

Let me get this straight, trustees asked village staff in late April to seek alternative proposals for the Colt site. Roughly 120 commercial developers were solicited. But not one alternative proposal was submitted. I'm not the real-estate expert some of the trustees claim to be. But as any junior sales and marketing manager can tell you, if a product does not move, it is either over-priced or there is no need for it.

dystOPia from OP  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 4:05 PM

30 years of DTOP TIF financing has created a culture of economic development welfare, where developers are conditioned to expect and demand TIF financial incentives based on historic precedence. On the one hand, the village promotes the economic vitality and market demographics of DTOP, on the other hand, they cannot attract private development unless massive financial incentives are provided. Only by ending their addiction to TIFs, can a competitive market be realized in DTOP once again.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 1:17 PM

Bridgett - Evanston, La Grange, and Elmhurst successfully redefined and developed their downtown shopping areas in a space of time less than OP has been pursuing for the village's downtown refurbishment. There projects are done. Our project continue to be revised and expanded. The key the OP lag is a poor projection of the incremental revenue it would receive to reinvest in the development, and the constant change in the vision and plans. Successful communities create a plan with a single development company and let the professionals do the job. Our board chose to micromanage plans and projects despite the fact that they have no project development education or skills.

paul from oakpark  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 1:06 PM

This is great. Clark Street knows that we paid $5 million dollars for the land so logically they will just pay us the $5 million and build their property to the current Zoning Laws. No hearings needed. No TIF extensions. No wrangling over whether the building looks good or bad and no village funded parking garage. They need a garage? They build it. Just like everywhere else in the country. We issue a 30 year bond for the water and sewer and we are good to go. A win for us, they take the risk.

dystOPia from OP  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 12:25 PM

@Bridgett ... the village may sell the property at market rate for private development, thereby returning it to property tax rolls. But village economic development is based on the false premise that property tax revenue can only be generated in public partnership with private developers that are provided huge financial subsidies. It is also based on the false premise of 'we know better' than market-based private development regulated by our Zoning Ordinance, despite no formal staff expertise.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 11:27 AM

I'm not well-versed on this issue, leaving me wondering: Is this the only option for that land? For the Village to develop it? Is there a reason why the Village doesn't sell it and have the property owner(s) develop it? Or, like the 120 developers who weren't interested, does the Village also not have interested property buyers? I don't exactly understand the processes at Village Hall regarding this, so I'm a bit confused by how all this is being handled.


Posted: June 19th, 2013 10:47 AM

The demise of the Schwab memorial parking lot. Good job at keeping development and taxes off that site for a good ten years Gary. Bravo.

Village Voice  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 10:18 AM

The village gave alternative developers only a month to come up with a $70 million plan. Either they weren't really interested in alternatives and were just going thru the legally required motions, or they were ready to seriously consider whatever slap-dash proposal could be thrown together in month. Not surprising that no one took the bait.

dystOPia from OP  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 9:58 AM

The RFP was a transparent charade, required by the IL TIF Act. Same as the Whiteco and Sertus projects, when the village first selects a preferred developer, any credible developer will refrain from responding to any request for alternate proposals. Now all leverage goes to Clark St., as the village, w/o benefit of any expertise in economic development, will subjugate themselves by throwing away the Zoning Ordinance and throwing in subsidies in order to save face and make this project happen.

Adam Smith  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 5:47 AM

The reason there are no other bidders are several, foremost is the existence of a "designated developer" who has a big advantage before a competitor walks in the door. Daly states - "We wanted their ideas" - add "for free and give them to whomever we pick to do the project." In these types of developments, the Village dictates what you can build, who can lease the space and how much you can profit - that doesn't attract entrepreneurs. Plenty going on but no one wants to waste time and money.

This Does Not Bode Well for Lake/Forest  

Posted: June 18th, 2013 10:41 PM

The fact that there were no other interested developers in the Colt site bodes horribly for the Lake/Forest development. Simple fact is that development is led by the availability of capital. And there are no lenders interested in financing apartment construction in Oak Park right now. Thus nothing at Lake/Forest is happening. Been saying this for almost 3 years now BUT WHAT IS THE VILLAGE'S PLAN FOR THE GARAGE AT LAKE FOREST IF THE DEVELOPER CAN'T GET HIS PROJECT BUILT!!!!!

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