Taxman unveils sweeping superblock redevelopment plans

10 new buildings for downtown, 'Hemingway Court' replaces Colt

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By DREW CARTER

The Taxman Corp. last night proposed two slightly different plans for Oak Park's downtown superblock, each calling for demolition of the Colt Building and construction of at least 10 new structures.

The sweeping redevelopment plans would construct a new road connecting Lake Street south to an 8-story mixed-use building with first-floor retail and pedestrian pass-throughs to North Boulevard's transit stations and an 82-unit condominium building above.

Westgate and Marion Street would intersect and each have two-way traffic. A 6-story parking garage (one story underground) capable of handling 530-690 cars would be constructed just north of the intermodal train station just off Marion Street.

The plan calls for the preservation of one of the Tudor buildings on Westgate and the re-use of the facades of other Westgate properties.

The difference between the plans lies in whether the national retailers in Taxman's Shops of Downtown Oak Park (The Gap, Old Navy, etc.) would allow for development on the surface parking lots they lease directly behind their shops.

Development on those parking lots would allow for "Hemingway Court," a boulevard-leading-to-a-cul-de-sac concept that Taxman has built in other cities. Leaving the surface parking would reduce the boulevard to a two-way "Market Street" and change the sizes and shapes of some of the proposed buildings throughout the plan.

Joseph Antunovich, who presented the Taxman plan at a meeting of the Downtown Sub-Area Plan Steering Committee, emphasized that the drawings were conceptual, and don't represent a plan to build just yet.

However, Taxman will likely develop a major portion of downtown, as it owns 65 percent of the superblock (not including properties along Marion), while the village owns another 18 percent. The superblock is bordered by Harlem to the west, Marion to the east, Lake to the north and North Boulevard to the south.

The steering committee was formed largely to recommend to the village board what it should do about a "put-call" purchase agreement the village has with Taxman on the Colt Building, which has storefronts at 1138-1146 on Westgate and Lake Street. It will make its recommendation to the board no later than Oct. 14.

Attendees hoping for a plan for downtown that would be less dense and preserve more historic buildings weren't pleased with Taxman's proposals.

"The mass of these structures is nothing less than overwhelming," said Kathryn Jonas.

In explaining why he decided to not preserve the Colt Building in his plans, Antunovich said to do so would be too costly, requiring too much money from the Tax Increment Finance District's fund, and not being profitable enough to return money to that fund by its 2018 expiration date.

Financial consultants hired by the village told the committee after Taxman's presentation that they found similar numbers to the developer's, and that to keep the Colt would not be profitable to the village or a developer looking to preserve or adaptively reuse the structure.

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

A more complete report on this story will be in next week's Wednesday Journal.

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