Marion St. house could be demolished for condos

Prospective owner wants to raze building near Mills Park

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

A local developer is asking Oak Park's preservation commission for permission to demolish a 119-year-old house at 224 S. Marion St., directly adjacent to Mills Park, to make room for what likely would be a condo building.

David Lehman will appear before the Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission on Aug. 30 to make his case that the building should not be considered as contributing to the historic district. The meeting takes place at 7:30 p.m. in room 201 at Oak Park Village Hall, 123 Madison St.

The 3,300-square-foot residential building, owned by Andrew Palomo under the name 224 South Marion LLC, has been used as office space for years, Lehman said in a telephone interview.

Lehman has the structure under contract to purchase — if the demolition is approved by the preservation commission.

He said zoning for the property would allow a 60-foot-tall building, which could be about five stories. He estimates the property would include about 10 to 12 condominium units, about 2,000 to 2,500 square feet each. 

The building would entail a 15-fold increase in tax revenue from the site versus its current use, and it "would provide a much-needed housing option for empty-nesters looking to move out of their 3,000- to 4,000-square-foot homes," Lehman said, noting that the proposal is consistent with the goals of Oak Park's Comprehensive Plan for downtown, which aims to redevelop land within a quarter-mile of trains that lead to downtown Chicago.

Oak Park Village Planner Craig Failor said there are a couple of options for Lehman if the commission denies his application for a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition: He can appeal to the Oak Park Board of Trustees or he can file for a certificate of economic hardship.

The economic hardship appeal would argue that the building could not remain on the site from a financial standpoint, for example, if it were uninhabitable and prohibitively expensive to repair.

Lehman said he likely would go to the Oak Park Board of Trustees to appeal the decision if he is denied by the commission.

"I think with this property, why I chose it, is that there are very few properties that overlook a park that are in downtown," he said, calling it the "ideal development site."

Lehman noted that the building would be located on the north side of Mills Park, arguing that its location would prevent shadows from being cast over the park.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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Marty Bracco  

Posted: September 4th, 2018 10:14 AM

Though I'll withhold judgement until I see the developer's plan, my initial reaction would be no. I'm curious as to the history/architectural significance of the building, and while I too don't subscribe to the "it's old, therefore it's historic" mindset, perhaps a refreshed building could draw more interesting businesses, or even a return to single family ownership if the market was there. I do recall during my time on the Park Board (05-13) there were discussions with the owner about a potential purchase of the property during the Mills Park master plan process. There was no interest on the owners part at the time, and after discussions there wasn't a great desire on the PDOP's part to remove the property from the tax rolls. The PDOP for years has had a use agreement in place for the driveway along the south side of the property, allowing vehicles to access the park for tree maintenance, etc.

Sarah Miyata from Oak Park  

Posted: September 4th, 2018 7:50 AM

I am coping my comment I submitted to the opinion article regarding this issue. I have been a resident of OP close to 20 years and have lived in 2 homes during that time. I love OP's history, its culture, its diversity; I'm proud to live here and raise our children here. That said, I watched our property taxes double in the last 9 years, the academic achievement gap widen, either constant commercial turnover or vacant store fronts languish, duplication of tax-funded academic resources, flagrant mismanagemt of taxpayer dollars- it's always easy to spend other people's money. If OP's current and future leadership continue to make short-sighted decisions fueled by lack of accountability or social consciousness, I predict in 20 years OP will have long lost its prided historical charm only to be replaced by these generic, ultra-expensive, high-taxed condos to which you refer. OP will be nothing more than a suburb home to transient and homogenous residents bc we all know downsizing families do not want to pay these exorbitant property taxes either. I'm very much in favor of change. How about using my tax dollars to honestly and aggressively address the academic achievement gap?

Tom MacMillan  

Posted: September 1st, 2018 5:57 AM

Right now there is probably a family in France or Japan, planning a trip to visit our town just to see the old blue house on Marion made by unnamed. It's great that people who don't own a property, or who don't live in Oak Park any more, or in the actual neighborhood, have so many ideas about what they think that property should be.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: September 1st, 2018 1:31 AM

Looks like Mr. Lehman has sued Oak Park in the past when he doesn't get what he wants: https://www.leagle.com/decision/20061312420fsupp2d89211241

Barry Kamin from Fort Collins, CO  

Posted: August 31st, 2018 9:49 PM

We lived near this location for 9+ years and always enjoyed the setting. Keep the building...always thought it would be ideal as a restaurant with a large outdoor patio adjacent to the park that could be operational for 7-8 months of the year.

Zachary Wagner  

Posted: August 30th, 2018 11:12 AM

I'd have to see a rendering of the potential building before deciding how I feel. The added density could be a plus. Increased walkability and more people living in the urban core of the village is a good thing?"?"and it will lead to fewer cars in the area, not more. My wife and I went from two cars down to one when we moved to downtown OP from another home in the village earlier this year (even though we have two parking spots). This density adds vibrancy and business viability to all the wonderful restaurants and shops that we have even more than a the "quaint" feel of many of the old buildings. Note I said vibrancy, not character. This has been the huge plus of all these new developments in downtown. The downside, I acknowledge, is that the designs have been less than inspired for most of the new buildings, with the exception of the district house over near Lake and Euclid. I also don't hate the Albion design as much as most people ?"?" although I don't love it. I live in a vintage condo building that backs up right into Mills Park, by the way.

Regan Wood  

Posted: August 30th, 2018 10:41 AM

As a former resident who visits OP to see family, I'm disappointed with how unattractive and inorganic the development has been and how much Oak Park has lost its character. Oak Park's architecture has always been a draw for tourists and residents and I think the town is shooting itself in the foot. And with all the new condo development, I challenge the developer's standpoint that there is a shortage for empty-nesters. Is there data to support that? Are all those new condos around downtown sold out? No, they're not. All of Oak Park development should be scrutinized for more integrity, but this particular area--Mills Park--will not benefit from increased modern development.

Mickey Agney from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2018 11:01 PM

Oak Park doesn't need to sell out!

Mary Pikul  

Posted: August 29th, 2018 9:18 PM

I would just like to remind the Village of something -- the number one reason most people drive to and around Oak Park is to see the old beautiful HOMES -- NOT -- the new high rises and condos. It's the homes that draw people here. Just a reminder.

Steve Hill  

Posted: August 29th, 2018 7:59 PM

How was the builder of the house?

Steve Kelley  

Posted: August 29th, 2018 7:16 PM

Sorry people. It is a fact. This is a contributing structure to the Historic District.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: August 29th, 2018 5:37 PM

Another Soviet Block triumph for Mayor Trump.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2018 3:29 PM

I live in that neighborhood. It sounds like a great idea. Old is not the same thing as historical. I would take residential neighbors in luxury condos over what is essentially bad office space any day.

Marie T Perkins from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2018 11:31 AM

PLEASE don't do this. Oak Park is slowly losing its quaintness and charm. Turning Oak Park into Chicago is NOT what people who live here want (at least I don't) The numerous high rises that are now concentrated on Lake Street and South Boulevard are making our village into a steel and glass jungle. A tear down of a historic house is just another nail in the coffin of history. People visit Oak Park to see the old homes NOT the new ones. If the owner of this house doesn't like it anymore, sell it to someone who appreciates it. But I fear with the current head of our village, this is a done deal. I sincerely hope not.

Alice Caputo  

Posted: August 29th, 2018 10:03 AM

Demolishing a turn of the century home to construct 12 condo units totaling 30,000 square feet plus and area to park 18 cars is a horrible idea. No hardship since he doesn't own the property. Certainly no shortage of empty nest condos and apartments in Oak Park. Its current use, however, is in short supply. Office/service/retail/restaurant conversion overlooking a park is in very short supply, is very valuable and an appropriate use. Perhaps it needs to be expanded or otherwise enhanced but not torn down.

Dave Slade from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2018 9:58 AM

Any developers want to buy my 35 x 150 foot lot in south OP that overlooks Longfellow Park and comes with all the empty McDonald's bags, empty styrofoam cups from 7-11, empty water bottles, and full diapers that are left in the street and park? This space could be used for those empty-nesters who really, really want to downsize into the 15 units that could be built on the footprint.

Peter R. Ibarra  

Posted: August 29th, 2018 1:34 AM

Do not do this. The neighborhood has suffered enough with all the "improvements to Wisconsin, Marion, and Maple. Enough is enough!

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: August 28th, 2018 8:44 PM

It's in a business district. Seems to me this is far less offensive than several other OP developments in the past 6-8 years.

Mary Kay O'Grady  

Posted: August 28th, 2018 6:03 PM

What Helen Vogel said.

Helen Vogel  

Posted: August 28th, 2018 4:22 PM

Please, please no!

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