Web Extra! Scroll down to see a slideshow of renderings from the proposed development
A developer hoping to reinvent a key corner of downtown Oak Park revealed the nitty-gritty details of the proposal last week. Response from the community was mixed, with some praising the architecture of the 19-story building, while others criticized the amount of parking and dependence on village subsidies.
The Chicago-based developer and the Village of Oak Park, hoping to team up on the development, held the meeting at village hall last Thursday.
The 19-story structure would include 70 condos, 300 public parking spaces, and either a 140-room hotel or 77 apartments.
Joyce Porter, president of Oak Park Festival Theatre, encouraged Sertus Capital Partners and the village to include more parking in the proposal. The current garage includes 350 spaces, while Oak Park’s downtown master plan called for a 750-space replacement on that corner.
“That’s going to exasperate the parking situation on top of more activity going on,” she said. “I would ask for the village to try and work out some arrangement where there are more parking spaces.”
Michael Glazier, principal of Sertus, says the garage is enclosed, which drives up the cost of each space, and the confines of the site limit the amount of spaces.
To help make the project work, Oak Park is discussing giving the land the garage sits on, appraised at $4.2 million, to Sertus. If apartments were built, the land credit would go toward the $6.5 million cost of public parking spaces. Or it would go as a credit to help with the hotel.
In addition, Oak Park may also give a $500,000 subsidy to the developer over the first two years of the building’s life to help make the hotel’s numbers work.
Resident Paul Hamer urged the board not to grant Sertus a subsidy of any kind, saying the developer already had the property reassessed as vacant for a tax break.
“All the numbers are goofy, and this has nothing to do with reality,” Hamer said. “They’re coming to us asking for a subsidy? They’re not even paying their property’s share.”
Doris Blumenthal asked Sertus to scale down the height. The 190-foot apex of the proposed building is more than twice as much as zoning allows (80 feet).
“Oak Park has lost its soul with these very tall skyscraper-type buildings,” she said.
Others at the meeting said they liked the contemporary architecture, which featured a shimmering glass façade. Architect Michael Patton said he was trying to imagine what classic architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright might do with modern materials.
“We think it’s fresh; it’s something that’s unique and will stand the test of time,” he said. “It’s not overly ornate or garish.”
Mike Fox, who owns the Carleton Hotel in Oak Park worries that a new hotel would suck away business from him and the Wright Inn. Ted Mandigo, who conducted a hotel-demand study for the project, said he believes it would draw in new business and not cannibalize the existing market.
“In my opinion, plain and simple, it isn’t fair to give someone else money to compete with me,” Fox said.
Members from both political slates in Oak Park also spoke during public comment. Those supporting the It Takes a Village slate (for village trustee) criticized the project for its use of TIF dollars, deviation from the master plan and harm to Oak Park’s historic character.
On the other side, Jim Kelly, part of the Citizens for Responsible Leadership campaign, called it “bold and beautiful.”
“This is a village in name only,” he said. “This is a high density, urban, collar community.”
The next step is for Oak Park to prepare a legally binding redevelopment agreement to enter into with Sertus. Officials say that could happen in the next few weeks.