New elevations for an altered version of the proposed Albion high-rise, planned for the corner of Lake Street and Forest Avenue, have surfaced and are expected to be discussed at the Monday night board meeting at Village Hall.
The agenda packet released Thursday evening includes a memorandum from the village noting that trustees Dan Moroney and Deno Andrews requested that developer Albion Residential change the design “to minimize the massing of the north side of the building and therefore, the relationship of the development to Austin Gardens…”
The new design does not reduce the height of the building but adds a stepped design on the north side of the building in an effort to reduce the shadow it would cast over Austin Gardens, a public park to the north of the proposed structure.
A memo included in the agenda packet from Tammie Grossman, Oak Park director of Development Customer Services, noted: “Overall, while staff supported the prior design, we believe that the updated design is a significant improvement to the project and we continue to recommend that the village board approve the planned development application, and we have modified the recommendation to incorporate the updated design.”
Opponents of the project have argued that the shadow cast by the 18-story building originally proposed by Albion would damage the trees and vegetation in Austin Gardens.
The proposal has been discussed extensively by the Oak Park Plan Commission, which voted earlier in September to reject the proposal. The rejection by the Plan Commission means a 5-2 super-majority vote is needed from the Oak Park Board of Trustees for final approval.
Andrew Yule, Albion vice president of development, said in a letter to the Oak Park Board of Trustees that the stepped-building approach is a possible solution.
“The idea of a stepped building has received a lot of interest from our architecture and development team as this has added a new element of architectural presence to the site,” Yule wrote in the memo. “The intent will include a building stepped down from Lake Street to the park to limit density, shadow, and wind on the north side of the site near the park which was a concern of the planning commission.”
The new proposal would relocate 13 units to the east portion of the fourth floor along Forest Avenue and the north portion along Lake Street. That portion of the original design would have been parking stalls, according to Yule’s letter.
“We believe the Lake Street and Forest Avenue units will greatly enhance the look and activation of the asset from a streetscape perspective and add a continuing unity of the building from the top to bottom that was a point that the planning commissioners were looking to include,” Yule said in the letter.
The change will result in 207 parking spots for 265 apartments, “a (.78:1) ratio that is still very appropriate for a (transit-oriented development) location and still within code compliance,” according to Yule.
Yule’s letter also notes that Albion has not changed plans for the greenway between the proposal building and its neighbor to the west; monetary contributions of $340,000; a one-time payment in lieu of escrow of $100,000 to the Austin Gardens Trust; and commitment to vibration monitoring of the historic 19th Century Club to the north.
“We believe that our vibrant lobby, community amenities, unique mix and amazing TOD location will help ease the burden of the tax base all while helping reduce the shadow and impacts to Austin Gardens by stepping the building in a creative and thoughtful manner that is architecturally significant and can be well recognized from anywhere around Oak Park,” Yule wrote.
The Oak Park Board of Trustees can vote to approve or reject the proposal at the Monday meeting, or the board can remand the proposal back to the Plan Commission for further discussion. A fourth option is to request additional changes at the board level.
They have 60 days to vote yes or no, according to Village Manager Cara Pavlicek. If they vote no, Albion must wait two years before bringing the proposal back for approval and must restart the planned development process.