Two teams vying to develop village-owned land at Madison Street and Highland Avenue-currently surface parking lots-unveiled detailed plans for the sites at a public forum last Wednesday. Both were four stories tall, featured a wealth of parking and commercial space and a connecting walkway over Highland.

The village sent out a call for qualified teams looking to develop the sites in September. Two teams responded in November and received $10,000 stipends from the village to put together these plans.

The first team, ABGA LLC, hopes to include a property west of the site, currently housing a hair salon at 309 Madison St. The development is four stories, mixed use, with parking on the second floor and residential on the third and fourth. Three floors would bridge over Highland.

The garage would include 116 parking spaces and a rear lot would include 23, for a total of 139.

ABGA plans to extend the curb just south of the alley behind the development to prohibit southbound traffic on Highland. The traffic-calming device would not eliminate any parking on the street and would minimize the traffic impact on the residential area, architect Ade Onayemi said.

The building would not meet the 25 percent open space required by zoning, but the team hopes to make up for that by building a LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green roof to increase the project’s energy efficiency and minimize its environmental impact.

The building is named “The Highlands at Madison Street.” Construction would be pre-cast with a concrete face and brick/stone veneer. It would feature high glazed windows to conserve energy. Most residences would include balconies to add to the activity and liveliness of Madison, Onayemi said.

In all, the first floor would feature eight separate retail spaces in the two buildings on each side of Highland. The project would also include about 14,700 square feet of retail on the first floor. Forty-six residential condos on the top two floors are also called for, totaling about 69,000 square feet.

The other team, calling itself Madison and Highlands LLC, touted its team’s makeup of local architects, investors and developers. They hope to create an “anchor destination” on Madison that isn’t driven by outside investors. The team will only use one bank for financing and believes it has the financial resources within the group to fund the project.

Titled “The Highlands,” the building would include team-owned land just east of the site up to Harvey Avenue. The group also envisions a four-story structure with a bridge over Highland. All parking for the development is contained in a three-story garage in the rear of the development. The garage, which bridges one floor over Highland, would include 232 parking spaces.

It would feature four retail spaces on the first floor, totaling about 18,000 square feet. The upper three floors would contain commercial office space, totaling 56,000 square feet.

Other details of the second plan include a brick and stone exterior, metal roof, the pursuit of silver LEED certification, a cul-de-sac on Highland south of the alley, sidewalk seating for retail, and bicycle racks.

The two teams will have time to tinker with their plans-based on input from residents and the Madison Street Coalition-before giving presentations to the village board on Jan. 24. The board will select a winner on Jan. 28.

The finalist then must go through all of Oak Park’s planned development processes. Elements of each plan are subject to change.

Neither team mentioned specific tenants for the ground floor retail space. It’s unlikely either has a specific merchant signed onto its project. A developer cannot sign a lease until he or she knows they have the properties secured, Dennis Marani, president of the Madison Street Business Association noted.

Marani is not involved in either group. However, he did sell a property he owned at Madison Street and Harvey Avenue to the Madison and Highlands team well before the competition started.

He hopes each team’s retail marketing group will read the Madison Street Corridor Plan, talk to businesses and residents and attract retail that keeps people shopping in Oak Park.

“We hope that the development will be a catalyst to spur future developers to come to Madison Street,” he said.


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