The Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center was opened earlier this summer with one of the centerpieces of the project being a solar paneled roof that powers the center.
But park district officials and some Oak Parkers are now concerned about whether or not enough sunlight will make it to the solar panels for them to produce enough energy for 2,100-square-foot facility.
They’re also worried about the gardens themselves because of a potential large-scale development that could potentially cast a shadow over the park.
In August, it was revealed that UrbanStreet Group – the owner of the building at 1000 Lake Street, which stands adjacent to the park’s south end – put the property on the market as a likely teardown of the existing two-story building and with potential to construct a 16-story building.
Paul Aeschleman, a Park District of Oak Park board commissioner, said the board has discussed the issue and is concerned about the effect a shadow would have on the park’s vegetation, solar panels on the building and the experience of those using the park.
He said the park board had submitted its concerns to the village, when an earlier proposal by UrbanStreet – which would have been an 8-story apartment building – was being discussed in 2014.
Building taller than eight stories would require zoning approval from the village of Oak Park.
Aeschleman acknowledged that it is uncertain if a tall building will even be proposed, but the potential for a large-scale development could “have a significant impact on our park.”
“We look forward to working with the developer, whoever they may be, to find a solution that’s good for everybody,” he said.
Park district spokeswoman Diane Stanke said it is the park district’s position that eight stories “is a preferable height.”
“Any higher would be an impact to the park,” she said.
She said Austin Gardens, a 3.6-acre park, is second only to the 11.7-acre Taylor Park in the number of park trees. Austin Gardens has 285 trees to Taylor’s 322, Stanke said.