Web Extra! Slideshow
Updated 02/13/2009 3:24 p.m.

After years in limbo, a massive building in downtown Oak Park is starting to take shape – at least digitally. While most development in the village has ground to a halt, a project at the corner of Lake and Forest took a step forward on Tuesday.

Chicago-based Sertus Capital Partners released a rendering of its planned development in the heart of Oak Park. Designed by Epstein architecture firm, the building appears to be about 15 stories tall, and features a shimmering glass façade as well as an outdoor swimming pool.

Sertus owns the aging building at the corner, which once housed the Original Pancake House and Certifiedland grocery. Oak Park also has an aging garage at the same location. Both sides have been working behind the scenes for more than a year to team up.

Trustees approved a non-binding agreement in June, which said the village and Sertus had a provisional agreement to work together. The next step would be a legally binding redevelopment agreement, which officials believe is weeks, not months, from happening.

Sertus plans to present more renderings and a detailed financial analysis of the project at village hall on Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. According to Village Manager Tom Barwin, that would include whether there is demand for a hotel in Oak Park, and how much that might cost the village.

Barwin said three different options are being considered for the corner. One would include a 140-room hotel, 70 condos and 27,000 square feet of retail space. The second would substitute 77 apartments for the hotel. Both options would incorporate a new parking garage with 300 public parking spaces.

The third option would involve the developer building something without Oak Park’s parcel of land included. It’s unclear what the makeup of that project might be, Barwin said, but it would cost the village $5 million to upgrade the garage that currently sits on that parcel, which was built in 1974.

The option with the hotel would create the most jobs and tax revenues for Oak Park. The village has pushed hard for a new hotel in downtown Oak Park, and as an incentive to help get it, the village is considering giving the land, which is valued at $4.2 million, to the developer. Oak Park also could share a percentage of hotel tax revenues generated by the project over its first two years of business, Barwin said.

The land credit is preliminary and would not involve Oak Park writing a check to Sertus. The village is opposed to sharing sales tax revenues generated by the project, Barwin added.

Jim Prescott, a spokesman for Sertus, said Thursday is “not a one-shot deal,” and there will be ample opportunity for residents to comment about both the visual and financial details of the Lake and Forest project. He reserved comments on the specific financials of the development until tomorrow.

“Despite a rather shaky economy, we’re prepared to move forward, and I think that speaks volumes about the appeal of this development, as well as the appeal of developing in Oak Park,” he said. “It’s still a tough market, don’t get me wrong, but this is a good project, in a good location, in a good community, and we hope to move forward with it.”

CONTACT: mstempniak@wjinc.com

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