I strongly disagree with the recommendation of Downtown Oak Park to support the construction of the proposed 18-story Albion Tower at the 1000 Lake Street site adjacent to Austin Gardens.
I recognize that, as a landlocked community, the only way to add more residential units is to build vertically, putting household on top of household. But we cannot do the same with our parks. As it is, Oak Park has far less space devoted to parks than its population warrants.
As part of its benchmarking survey over a decade ago, it became evident that Oak Park is deficient in park acreage: against a national guideline of 10 acres of park and open space per thousand population, and an average of 7.5 acres per thousand among peer communities, Oak Park offered just 1.64 acres per thousand to its population at the time, and, not surprisingly, smaller parks, fewer athletic fields and smaller recreational facilities.
As a consequence, Oak Park’s parks are required to do double duty by providing both passive and natural open spaces and active sports and recreational fields. Given the overall space demands of athletic fields, quiet and passive parks, or even quiet spaces within multi-purpose parks, are few and far between.
Austin Gardens is the rare exception, where the dominant purpose of the park is to provide for quiet relaxation in a truly park-like setting. Building another urban tower adjacent to its southern flank (the source of much of the sunlight needed to maintain this small arboreal gem) is not only an affront to its purpose but yet another source of the declining ratio of park space to population.
Apart from the inconvenient fact that neither the village nor the park district have total control of this site, it would be easy to argue that it would offer more to the village as open space (a plaza, square, or park-like extension and entrance to Austin Gardens) than an 18-story, mixed-use high-rise creating the worst kind of adjacent urban canyon.