After several months, the dust has finally settled on the future of the downtown Oak Park “Superblock.”

The village board Monday selected a developer to reinvent a massive piece of land, totaling more than 81,000 square feet. The competition started last October with seven teams. Two dropped out, while the village dropped the other four.

In the end, AvalonBay Communities, Inc. was the last group standing. The Virginia-based company has a vision for Oak Park that will include hundreds of apartments and a 496-space garage. It also includes more than 36,000 square feet of retail, depending on how much office space is included.

The project will cost almost $80 million to build. The publicly traded company says it’s less concerned by economic factors because it owns billions in assets and doesn’t need to meet pre-lease requirements to build its idea.

Trustees voted 6-0 to pick AvalonBay as the “preferred developer” with little discussion. In the coming months, the village will work out a “term sheet” agreement with the company to lay out a roadmap for the project and the village’s participation.

Trustee Greg Marsey abstained from the vote.

“I have serious concerns about this project,” he said, pointing to $21.95 million in village contributions to the project. “Those numbers have got to come down for this to be financially viable for this village.”

However, the village has a bond payment for purchasing the Colt and 1145 Westgate at the end of next year that will balloon, he added. Oak Park bought the two properties for $7.5 million total in 2006.

Other members of the board expressed excitement with the development and how it will likely reshape downtown.

“In this uncertain economic time, to have a company with their economic strengths … potentially bodes well for us,” Trustee Ray Johnson said.

“It’s no surprise to me that in this current economic environment, such a well capitalized developer is the last one standing,” said Trustee Jon Hale.

Village President David Pope said Oak Park is ready to move forward, “aggressively” in taking this project to the next level.

Walt Rebenson, president of development for AvalonBay, said the project will remain fluid through discussions with the village and community. The $21.95 million in assistance from the village-which will go largely to public improvements-is a number that could change down the line, he said.

This will come in the form of a split with the village in the increased tax revenues over the next 20 years. If AvalonBay makes back the needed funds before that period, it will stop the sharing, he said.

The company is open to changing its architectural design and presented a new concept for trustees to consider. However, Rebenson said AvalonBay cannot decrease the number of apartments by too much.

“If you go too far down on apartments, then the economics of it get all out of whack,” he said.

The group said it can’t sign on with retailers until the agreement is approved. So it’s too early to say who might occupy the space, said Andy Stein, principal for Clark Street Development which is teaming with AvalonBay on the project.

A few people spoke during public comment last Thursday.

Gary Schwab, former board candidate with the VCA slate, criticized the two proposals, saying they are too big, expensive, and replace notable buildings in downtown. He also questioned the numbers in the proposals.

“What are we getting for this money?” he said later, adding, “This is a really dumb idea.”

“It’s time to take a deep breath and wait,” said Annabel Abraham, another former VCA candidate, urging the board to let the economy improve

“The potential is there for a very good, very open team,” said Carl Grossbeck. “You couldn’t choose better partners.”

CONTACT: mstempniak@wjinc.com

A breakdown of AvalonBay’s proposal

Cost of project: $78.8 million ($57.2 to residential, $21.6 to retail)

New sales/real estate taxes generated:

$40 million (over 20 years)

Land included:

The Colt building, just east of Harlem, the adjacent 1121-23 Lake St. building, a North Boulevard parking lot and 1145 Westgate

Land price:

$1 (village bought Colt/1145 Westgate for $7.5 million)

Village contribution:

$21.95 million (87/13 split of tax revenues, developer/village, for 20 years)

Apartments:

196

Parking spaces:

496

Retail space:

Between 36,000 and 67,000 square feet

Height

: Between 12 and 14 stories

AvalonBay’s assets:

Over $6 billion

Projects:

Developed over 200 across country

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