I have been reading with interest the various opinions about the newest design for the Whiteco project. As an architect, one of the things I like about living in Oak Park is that people do take an interest in what gets built. When I first saw a rendering of the Brininstool + Lynch design, I was intrigued but not necessarily sold on the design. I met with the architect and found that the more I learned about their design the more I liked it. Why?

Number one is it’s a good neighbor. The tallest component (13 stories) is located at the south and southwest portion of the property so as to not block the views for Holley Court, yet at the same time it helps block the view of the parking structure. Conversely the lower parts of the development (five stories) are located along the northwest and Ontario Street sides, which relates well to the buildings north of the site.

Number two is the Harlem Street pedestrian experience is enhanced. Anyone who has walked alongside the old Field’s building and its narrow sidewalk while cars and trucks race along knows how scary it can be. The new Whiteco design allocates a wider space and proposes raised planters with trees. Another unique feature is that planters may be slanted away from the street and toward the building, providing an attractive sense of enclosure for people walking along Harlem.

Finally, the last reason I like the Whiteco/Brininstool + Lynch design is because it is a good example of well executed architecture that is modern. Sometimes when I listen to the debate about design in our town, I wonder if a Frank Lloyd Wright were practicing today if he could get anything built. I think we need to embrace the attitude that we are a progressive village, and traditional and modern buildings can co-exist if executed by talented people. Everything doesn’t have to try and look like it was built years ago.

In my 28 years of practice, I have often seen communities come to appreciate architecture that at first seemed controversial. I sincerely hope that people give this latest proposal a chance. I believe it will be a lasting, attractive and innovative image at this very visible edge of our town, and it is an excellent solution.

Floyd D. Anderson, AIA
Oak Park

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