Members from two local commissions met last Wednesday to determine how the Avenue Business District could avoid having its own version of a flying saucer landing on Soldier Field.
Representatives from the Historic Preservation and Plan commissions, the village board, and a team trying to develop the corner of Oak Park Avenue and South Boulevard gathered to figure out how to create an innovative building that’s also mindful of two historic buildings at that corner.
Architect Victor Dziekiewicz and his associates are working to build a four-story, L-shaped building around a brown brick building (formerly home to Thyme & Honey Restaurant and Val’s halla Records) and a yellow brick building (formerly home to David A. Noyes & Co.) at the intersection, after the two buildings were deemed “contributing structures.”
Plans have bounced back and forth among different commissions for years, with clashing views between preserving the district’s character and creating something innovative. To help expedite the process, all parties met last week to try to reach some consensus in direction.
“I think the meeting was helpful, not only for us but everyone there [to show] that there are different opinions as to what belongs there,” Dziekiewicz said. “We need to be mindful of what the commissions and trustees want. It’s not a simple task, nor an easy task, but I think the meeting was helpful.”
The architect brought a new design for the building, which incorporated three glass towers, just as an idea to spark discussion. The commissions didn’t provide any specifics to include in the next plan but did convey general philosophies.
Village Planner Craig Failor, who moderated the meeting, felt the direction was that the team has the freedom to explore different architectural styles, perhaps more contemporary than the 1920s-era design previously presented.
“I think the plan commission wants to see something more distinctive and not a background building,” Failor said. “I think what [the meeting] did was open up the opportunity to look at different materials and styles, as long as it’s in line with the character of the district.”
Members from the two commissions offered a slew of ideas and points of emphasis-from making the new building more of a presence on the street, to creating something distinctive on the historic buildings’ roofs visible from the train tracks, making something cohesive with the area, avoiding bricks, using high-quality materials, or departing from a “boxy” structure.
Trustee Ray Johnson agreed the project shouldn’t focus on adaptive reuse to the exclusion of great architecture. He felt the consensus was “mediocrity is not acceptable.”
Trustee Greg Marsey agreed. “Going completely in the direction of trying to match what’s there from a historic perspective is not the right approach, and landing a spaceship on top of Soldier Field is not the right approach. Something in between those two extremes is probably where we want to be.”
Dziekiewicz said his company, DesignBridge LTD, is creating a new design for the project. What it will include, he could not say. All he could say is “time is of the essence,” and they’re trying to develop a cohesive solution that addresses all concerns.
“It’s no small order, but we’ll work on it,” he said.
They probably won’t have a design ready for the next plan commission meeting, scheduled for tomorrow. Dziekiewicz did say they should have something ready at the following meeting, which is scheduled for Feb. 21.
“Our job is to distill the info and figure out a solution that will garner support and is something we ourselves will be satisfied with,” Dziekiewicz said.