A few weeks ago, Village President Anan Abu-Taleb was ready to call it quits with Clark Street Development over its delayed execution of possibly the largest residential/retail development in Oak Park’s history.
The so-called Colt project, which would develop a huge chunk of downtown Oak Park — bounded by Marion Street, Harlem Avenue, Lake Street and North Boulevard — had been in the works for about seven years, and Clark Street missed important deadlines to move the development forward.
Abu-Taleb has publicly lambasted Clark Street over the last month, telling them to prove they were capable of meeting deadlines or he and the village board would find another developer.
Monday night he reiterated his zero tolerance, telling Clark Street and its partner Lennar Multifamily Communities, “The market has changed and it is in our favor; you have to play ball our way,” just minutes before he and the Village Board of Trustees unanimously approved their amended redevelopment plan.
The new redevelopment agreement increases the height of one of three structure from an 11-story mixed-use residential to 20 stories. The project, expected to cost approximately $72 million to complete, also includes a five-story, mixed-use building and a 428-space parking garage. About 25,100 square feet of ground-floor retail space will be split between the two mixed-use buildings with 271 luxury apartments on the floors above.
The village is contributing the land for the project and about $7 million in funds.
The plan includes hard dates for beginning construction and completing the project. That only gives the Village Plan Commission about 60 days to complete its review of the proposal.
“We’re going to hold your feet to the fire on those drop-dead dates,” Abu-Taleb told the developers.
Trustees and village staff became increasingly nervous about the project, which was given preliminary approval in 2014, when Clark Street missed a Jan. 1 deadline to submit more details about the project.
Trustees also questioned Clark Street’s decision to change its business partner within the last 12 months from Jupiter Realty to Lennar Multifamily Communities. Clark Street founding principal Andy Stein never gave a reason for the change.
The village became so concerned, it hired the municipal planning consulting firm Kane, McKenna & Associates to review Clark Street and Lennar to determine whether they were capable of putting the project together. Charles L. Durham, vice president at Kane, McKenna, said both companies “display a capacity” to complete the project.
Durham noted that Lennar has been involved in “quite a few” successful high-quality projects in the Chicago area and elsewhere and worked with “some of the top banks in the country.”
Durham also said the investment team expects a 50 percent loan-to-value ratio, meaning they will fund roughly half of the project with their own capital.
Under the amended development agreement approved Monday night, the developer will be required to meet deadlines, which includes having shovels in the ground by Nov. 3. The Plan Commission must complete its review by Aug. 3.
Abu-Taleb reminded the developers that Oak Park has been approached by three other developers interested in taking over the project.
Stein assured the board that all future deadlines would be met. He said the project was hampered by the financial collapse of the late 2000s and the change in business partners.
“I get it, I understand, I really do,” Stein said. “It doesn’t make me feel good to come back up here. … We know we have assembled the best team to execute on this project. I believe in this community, and I believe in this project, and I believe we can get it done.”