After months of discussions and dozens of hearings, a 20-story Oak Park high-rise got the final thumbs up it needed Monday, setting the wheels in motion to start construction.
Village trustees voted 6-0 on Monday to approve the apartment tower, slated for the northeast corner of Lake Street and Forest Avenue. Trustee Colette Lueck was absent. But first the board spent a couple of hours chewing over the details and attaching a series of conditions to the approval.
Those include limiting construction traffic to Lake Street while the tower is built, carefully monitoring any nearby properties during and after its erection, and providing a list of materials to be used to build the tower.
The clock also began ticking on Monday, as Chicago-based Sertus Capital Partners needs to apply for building permits by Sept. 1 or risk losing its approval. They’ll then have to break ground by Sept. 1 of next year, and finish construction by September 2015.
Council chambers was mostly empty on Monday, in contrast to the meeting last month, when opponents showed up in large numbers as trustees gave their initial approval. But a few detractors showed up to voice their worries. Opponents have argued that the development is far too tall, far too short on parking, and wouldn’t fit with the historic character of the neighborhood along Forest Avenue. Plus, the village isn’t getting any cash for its land and is paying millions for a new garage.
“I don’t feel that this ordinance adequately protects the interests of the citizenry,” said Oak Parker Steve Harris.
The parcel in question is at the northeast corner of Lake and Forest, where Sertus owns the corner lot, and village hall owns the aging garage that’s wrapped around it.
The two sides have been talking for years about partnering, and in 2010 they finally inked a deal to build a hotel, condos and a garage. But Sertus booted that concept last year, opting instead for rental apartments with retail space on the bottom.
But first, they needed an OK on zoning variances related to density and parking, which the board finalized Monday. At 270 apartments, Sertus is building 172 more units than zoning allows. And the 288 parking spaces are 85 fewer than zoning requires.
The development is also slated to include two stories of retail space at the bottom and a 588-space parking garage. Village hall is paying some $9 million for 300 spaces in the enclosed structure, which includes hiring someone to monitor the construction.
While making their case for supporting the development last month, trustees pointed to the added density in downtown as a plus. The 270 apartments, they say, would bring hundreds of new shoppers to the area. Plus, the property is projected to generate $1.3 million in new tax revenues.
Sertus is also committing to fund improvements to Austin Gardens across the street, the surrounding streetscape, and to build a sculpture nearby.