Neighbors ask Schiess for larger Madison St. vision

? Schiess will present vision before entering village process on first phase of project to develop from OP Ave. to Grove.

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By DREW CARTER

Organized neighbors troubled by a proposed Madison Street development are calling on architect John Schiess to produce a larger plan for what he and the Oak Park Development Group will do with the parcels the company owns or controls on the corridor.

Schiess said such a plan will be presented to neighbors at an upcoming meeting, and that neighbors' input will help shape development plans.

Alex Troyanovsky, the developer behind Schiess, plans to remake the south side of Madison Street from the Sears Pharmacy building on the corner and west to a parking lot formerly owned by Leona's Restaurant, located across the street. On the north side of Madison, the company is working on a deal with Comcast for its building and parking lot.

First up is a six-story mixed-use project at 827 Madison, which Schiess has dubbed "Madison + Carpenter + Grove."

"What's the big game plan? I think that's a question that needs to be asked," said John Metzger, a spokesman for neighbors with concerns about the 827 Madison St. proposal. Metzger lives on the 600 block of Carpenter Avenue.

He said the multiple projects planned for the area would affect residents in the area between Washington and Jackson boulevards and between Home and Euclid avenues.

"That's at a minimum," he said. The group plans to survey residents within the larger area to gauge concerns and elicit feedback on how neighbors can help shape development.

Schiess said he has developed a plan to present to neighbors. He would not reveal all of the details before the meeting, but said he envisioned mixed-use developments he'll work in two phases, the first being the 827 Madison St. (Madison + Carpenter + Grove) project, followed by a project from the Sears Pharmacy building west to Carpenter Avenue.

He'll present two options for Phase II, which will divvy up retail space differently. One would allow for one or two large spaces for retailers, while the other would provide more, but smaller, spaces.

Sales of the retail spaces in the 827 Madison project and the condominiums above will determine when Schiess will begin working on Phase II. His current plans involve knocking down the Sears Pharmacy building, which he said is "really aged."

"It went through a long period of Band-Aid improvements," Schiess said.

Schiess said he would consider keeping the building intact if neighbors felt strongly about it, and that by building in two phases he might be able to accommodate retailers who wanted to keep their locations and stay open during construction.

Neighbors' first concern is Phase I

"The size and scope of this project [827 Madison St.] spiked our concerns," Metzger said, adding that the building would be out of character with the single-family residences along Carpenter and Grove south of Madison. "We know that what's being proposed now isn't really going to fit with the neighborhood."

Metzger said some neighbors are conc e rned that adding density will affect safety on residential streets. He expects customers visiting retail shops would more likely come and go using Madison, but that residents would more likely travel down side streets to avoid traffic.

Schiess said adding cul-de-sacs on residential streets south of the project has been raised by neighbors, and that he supported the measure if it were what most neighbors wanted.

Schiess has applied for variances on the 827 Madison St. project for height, density and set-backs. He said zoning allows for a height of 50 feet, but that his building would rise to 74 feet, owing in part to first-floor commercial, which requires more height. He'll use feedback from neighbors to modify his proposal.

Metzger said about 40 residents have been involved in meetings about the proposal, and that a core group of about a dozen work on the issue day-to-day.

"We're not anti-development," Metzger said of the group. "We do believe there could be some things put on Madison Street, particularly at 827 Madison, that would improve our neighborhood."

Schiess said he senses many neighbors share that feeling, and that eventually a compromise will be struck.

"Given that there are reasonable heads on both sides, I think we can work things out," he said. "Otherwise we'd be seeking another road."

Contact: dcarter@wjinc.com

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