A medical technician college is seeking village approval to move into 38,000 square feet of vacant office space in the top three floors of the Border’s building at 1144 Lake St.

Corinthian College, which has campuses nationwide, is still in the process of drafting specific plans for the Oak Park site, according to a memo from the village’s zoning administrator to the village board. Before the campus can open, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) must vote to grant the college a Special Use Permit.

If approved by the ZBA, it’s likely that roughly 300 students a day will attend the school, said Mike Chen, village development director, who has discussed the proposal with Corinthian. Chen added that Corinthian is hoping to open in September or October.

The school describes itself as a “commuter college,” according to the memo, and Chen said he believes most students would take nearby public transportation to class. The peak hours of school operation would also be “a perfect” match with Oak Park’s parking supply and demand schedule, Chen said, adding that most classes will be held from 7-11 a.m. and from 6-10 p.m.

“That is a period of low intensity in terms of our typical operations. I would expect a fairly small percentage of students would choose to drive as opposed to utilize public transportation,” Chen said. “It makes [the college] an attractive use.”

Water Tower Realty, which owns the building, has also made an agreement with the village to purchase up to 100 daytime parking permits in the Holley Court Garage. That agreement was reached before a specific use was contemplated for the office space.

Though the top floors of the building have not been occupied for several years, a bank that had leased the space has continued to pay rent.

If the college is able to move in, however, “it will take care of virtually all office vacancies downtown,” said Chen, and likely prevent the building owner from filing for a tax appeal based on vacancy.

“This is big for the building, downtown and Oak Park,” he said, adding that college-aged students are a good demographic to bring into the village.

“College students always have need for food, restaurants and entertainment, not to mention a last-minute T-shirt and blue jeans,” Chen said. “They are disposed to buying, spending and shopping.”

Other than new signage, the college is not looking to make any exterior alterations to the building, which is a national historic landmark, according to the memo.

The village board voted unanimously Monday to refer the Special Use Permit application to the ZBA for review.

CONTACT: kgrayson@wjinc.com

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