Architect John Schiess presented preliminary sketches last week for two planned developments on South Boulevard, a 22-townhouse development at Home Avenue (Jaguar building) and two mixed-use condominium buildings totaling 80 units at Oak Park Avenue, where Thyme & Honey Restaurant now sits.
The latter project will involve the partial demolition of four buildings on Oak Park Avenue and South Boulevard. Beginning with the two-story former coin laundry and apartment building at 126-134 Oak Park Ave. the development would stretch north and around the corner to the blue one-story building at 715 South Blvd.
Facades and windows of three of the four buildings will be preserved, according to drawings Schiess showed the Architecture Review Committee at its regular monthly meeting last Thursday night. The committee is composed of members of, and reports to, the Historic Preservation Commission.
Plans call for two buildings separated by a walking path 25 feet wide?#34;wider than the current alley. The building facing South Boulevard would have 42 condos, while the one to the south, facing Oak Park Avenue, would have 38.
Separate parking would be built for residential and retail users in a ground-level garage at the east end of the project on South Boulevard. Cars would enter via South Boulevard or through alleys off of Euclid Avenue or Pleasant Street.
Commercial uses would be preserved in the plan, which will need village board approval to be built. Schiess said he and the developer he is working for, Alex Troyanovsky, intend to fill two of the first-floor spaces with restaurants with a public space and room for outdoor eating, in the area where the alley is now. Retail uses are envisioned for other ground-floor spaces.
Stepped back from the facade 30 feet are three stories of condos through the entire length of the project. The second story facades on existing buildings will blend from the original building into the new facade. The condo building’s facade is designed to complement, but not compete with, the historical and aesthetic features of the original facades.
“We thought the details are rich enough” on the existing buildings,” Schiess said. “We just need to step back and respect that.”
The building would rise 50 feet, which would fit within zoning regulations. The project would also meet zoning code requirements for parking and density.
Schiess told the committee that other nearby buildings were also 45-50 feet tall, including the townhouse building he designed at Euclid Avenue and South Boulevard.
Committee members liked a three-story design Schiess had previously given them, but said a fourth floor was needed for the project to be financially viable. The members also expressed concern over the proposed public space fronting Oak Park Avenue where an east-west alley is now.
Schiess said he envisioned the space to be similar to the one adjacent to The Pasta Shoppe & Cafe, 116 N. Oak Park Ave., which cuts west from The Avenue parking garage to Oak Park Avenue. However, the walkway would lead only to entrances of the condo buildings located halfway down the corridor. Committee members suggested adding some retail or other public uses, and to move the condo entrances as close to Oak Park Avenue as possible.
“Is there any possibility of making these corners more usable?” asked Doug Gilbert, chair of the commission.
After the meeting, Schiess answered the question of how this project could be profitable at four stories when in the past he’s argued for other buildings needing to be taller. He said there is a metaphorical three-legged stool of development, the legs being land cost, construction costs and sale prices. Each leg needs to be equal for the stool to be level.
For the Oak Park/South Boulevard project, lower land and construction costs, and expected higher sale prices, allowed for a shorter building.
Townhomes planned at Home Ave.
Schiess is also nearly finished with plans for a 22-unit townhouse development at Home Avenue and South Boulevard.
“I don’t think this will be anywhere near as controversial as other projects I’ve done,” Schiess said.
The project will need a variance for lot coverage, but meets all other zoning requirements and is below height and density allowances, he said.
The four-story townhouses would represent a transition and scale-down from the Opera Club building (which he designed) at South Boulevard and Marion Street to the attached single family and multifamily housing east on South Boulevard and south on Home Avenue.
In addition, according to neighbors, Schiess had satisfied each point on a list of concerns they had outlined.
Bob Loro, Jim Kutill and neighbors who had gathered to fight previous matters, including the YMCA’s expansion plans, gathered to discuss expected development in the neighborhood, including the Home Avenue/South Boulevard site.
“We wanted them to look like the row houses” on Home Avenue, Loro said. “He came back with exactly what we said. Exactly. Amazing!
“It’s the way it should be done in this village. Trying to fight the neighborhood is ridiculous,” Loro added.
Vehicles would enter the development through the alley, and then follow new streets within the development to two-car garages, none of which face the streets. Schiess also worked in varying roof heights and facade changes to meet neighbors’ approval.
The committee had some concerns over design elements and suggested Schiess look at the possibility of adding porches, which represent a public/private transition space common to urban row houses or townhouses.
Loro said the neighbors would back Schiess when the plans go for village approval.
The property to be developed, 1013 South Blvd., sold for $2 million in January. It is the former home of Jaguar Imports Company, a sewing machine importer that started losing money fast after it lost a contract with Sears, Loro said. That building was the original Snow Brothers Ford, while Loro’s building, 1029 South Blvd., was the last one built for the dealership in the 1920s, he said.