Members of the River Forest Development Review Board declined to comment on a building proposal for the intersection of Lake and Lathrop, after developers submitted revised plans just hours before a public hearing on July 26.
“It’s difficult for me to make a decision on a recommendation to the village board if we don’t know what we’re being asked on,” said Frank Martin, chairman of the Development Review Board.
That said, Martin called the July meeting “much better” compared to Lake and Lathrop LLC’s “woefully inadequate” presentation at the public hearing in June.
Lake and Lathrop LLC, comprising Sedgwick Development and Keystone Ventures, plans to build a five-story, mixed use development at 7601-21 Lake St. The parcel also includes 423 Ashland Ave.
The Development Review Board will now need to hear Lake and Lathrop LLC’s case again on Aug. 23 and make a recommendation to the village board. Village trustees will either approve or deny developers’ final application. If approved, this could push construction plans back by at least a month.
After a nearly three-hour public hearing in June, where several residents voiced opposition to the proposed design and building height, Lake and Lathrop LLC now wants to shrink the corner cornice of the building to just 72 feet tall, which is still above the village’s height maximum of 50 feet. Developers are still seeking to build 32 residential units, and will need a site development allowance for 19 units.
Resident Daniel Lauber continued to advocate for affordable housing at the property, especially since the village has gifted Lake and Lathrop LLC $2 million in tax increment financing funds to clean up the site.
“It’s socialism for the wealthy and capitalism for the middle class,” Lauber said. “It should be rejected in this form.”
Mark McKinney, director of project operations at Sedgwick, said developers completed a computer-generated shadow study and found the proposed building’s shadow would slightly climb St. Luke Church, but would have no impact on the windows of the nearby church and school. With the reduced height, there should be even less impact than projected, he said.
But even with the reduced height, many residents and board members seemed opposed to proposed Beaux-Arts style of architecture. McKinney said their design was inspired, in part, by residents’ reaction to the ultra-modern design at District House in Oak Park, saying that some prospective tenants were looking for a more traditional design.
“I think you overlooked a very easy design choice with Prairie Style,” said resident Lynne Higgins.
KLOA traffic consultant Eric Russell reasserted that his December 2017 study was conducted during an appropriate time — a week before school break, when plenty of pedestrians were out, he said — and said the development will only add an additional 30 cars during peak congestion periods of school hours, some 1 percent of current traffic. Russell admitted that he did not study how construction would impact traffic.
“It really won’t have an impact,” Russell said.
Tim Hague, a River Forest resident and owner of Keystone Ventures, then unveiled more details concerning a retail space, saying that they aiming to attract themed sit-down casual restaurants like Davanti Enoteca as well as “fast casual” specialty eateries, naming Nandos, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Blaze Pizza as examples.
“As we proceed with this, we hope to engage in conversations with” Tulipia Floral Design about appearing in the development, he said. Developers will need a zoning variance for the size of the sit-down restaurant they’re seeking (about 8,000 square feet, larger than the village’s limit of 5,000) and are hoping to change the land use language from “fast food” to “fast casual.”
He also said developers hoped to attract a “good breakfast restaurants” to the property. If they were able to attract a café, developers said they would seek a variance and aim to open the coffee shop at 6 a.m., an hour earlier than the village allows.
Developers are also still seeking a parking variation, since the proposed 86 parking spaces fall on space short of the village’s mandate of 87, and their mix violates village code.
Lake and Lathrop LLC is proposing 32 parking spaces for retail parking and 54 parking spaces for residents. The village requires no commercial parking, but the code would require 80 spaces for residents and seven spaces for their guests.
Developers also have not identified how many handicapped spaces will be available, and will also need an allowance for the length the parking stalls proposed, which is 3 feet shorter than required.
They said they plan to address a “pedestrian alert system” at the intersection of Lathrop and Ashland during the permitting stages, and want to also drop the ceiling of the retail parking height by a foot.
“We’re dealing with a fundamentally different transit system than we were 15 years ago,” said Corey Robertson, director of development services at Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty, which is marketing the property. “We’re seeing a significant shift in parking needs.”