It is good news that UrbanStreet Group, the development firm that last year purchased adjacent properties at Lake Street and Forest Avenue, is ready to invest in one and to demolish the other to make way for a more ambitious use.
Coming down, sooner than later, is the two-story white brick building on the northwest corner of the intersection. Built as a small department store – Lytton’s – in the mid-1950s, that building reached its highest and best use during Grand Opening Week. Lytton’s went defunct some 30 years ago and its former home devolved most recently into a disturbingly modest array of shops including Subway, a foot doc and, the last remaining operator, a convenience store. Not exactly gateway-to- the-downtown material.
We’re happy to see the initial plans call for a fairly modest height at 8 stories with first floor retail and 140 apartments above. The first stab at design was presented to the Historic Preservation Commission back in November, thankfully not because of any nascent movement to declare the current structure as notable but because any new building is within a small range of the legitimately historic Nineteenth Century Club.
So what’s our single, and we think legitimate concern? Of course, parking. Here’s our math and its historic roots. Sitting just north of the doomed two-story brick job is a surface parking lot. It used to be the site of a private parking garage for the office tenants at the commonly owned 1010 Lake St. building. When that garage was allowed to disintegrate, the village government ultimately ordered it demolished. And parking for the 1010 tenants was dispersed into village owned parking garages.
The regulatory issue that Oak Park’s Plan Commission and, eventually, the village board will need to decide is if UrbanStreet can be allowed to build parking in its new building that only meets the needs of its apartment and retail tenants or must they add at least some spaces to absorb the parking needs of their tenants at 1010? Because if the private owners of these two buildings do not provide adequate parking, then it will cost taxpayers who will either have to build more spaces or, themselves, be displaced when they come to our downtown to shop and dine.