Oak Park’s next big luxury high-rise apartment building could be 28 stories tall and constructed on the site of the U.S. Bank branch drive-thru and a parking lot at 835 Lake St. – less than a half-block away from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple at 875 Lake St.
The proposal is by Golub & Company, the same developer that built the 21-story, 270-unit Vantage Apartments, 150 Forest Ave., in 2016.
The proposal came to light after Golub called a meeting with residents of the adjacent Courtland Condominiums, located to the east. That meeting took place at the Carleton Hotel on Nov. 8.
Golub Senior Vice President Michael Glazier, Golub’s senior vice president, could not immediately be reached for comment, but spokesman Jim Prescott said in a telephone interview that the meeting was being held as a courtesy to Courtland residents.
He said neither the press nor the general public were invited to attend.
“We’re trying to be respectful and courteous, and those conversations are private,” he said.
About 25 Courtland residents attended the meeting. They were told the plan is to build a 28-story tower, which would be 107-feet tall, with 256 units. If the plan is approved by the Oak Park Board of Trustees, it would be the tallest development in the village.
The tower would be set back from and rise above a seven-story block facing Lake Street and would include a U.S. Bank branch on the ground floor and other office spaces.
The seven-story lower section of the structure would be 55-feet tall, according to Courtland resident Noah Hayman, who attended the meeting. By comparison, the Courtland building next door is approximately 33 feet tall.
Hayman said Courtland residents also were told that the project would include a parking garage on the southern portion of the property.
Courtland residents were presented with a slideshow at the meeting with images of the proposed building, and Hayman took a photo of one of the renderings.
“[Representatives from Golub] were taken aback and immediately said, ‘You don’t need to take photos, and this will all be made public,'” Hayman told Wednesday Journal.
Hayman called it a “slimy tactic” to not release the information to the public, and said the private meeting “shows how lacking in transparency they’re trying to be, although they say otherwise.”
Hayman said Glazier and others at the meeting said shadows from the building “won’t impact Unity Temple’s sunlight features.”
“They put a lot of research into that,” he said, adding that “they showed thermal imaging” to illustrate that the building’s shadow would have minimal impact on nearby vegetation.
“I think that is B.S.,” Hayman said. “Minimal impact is really a relative term.”
Courtland residents also were told that Golub representatives already have met with the leadership at Unity Temple about the project.
Courtland resident Caralyn Sheehan said she also felt like Golub wanted the meeting to remain “like a secret.”
“I felt like everyone [who attended the meeting] was against it,” she said. “Some people were angrily against it, like myself.”
Sheehan said rumors have circulated about what would be built at the site in anticipation of U.S. Bank selling the property.
“At some point, we thought something would be built here, but we hoped it would be something more along the lines of District House [at 702 Lake St.], something in scale with things around it,” she said.
Sheehan said she gasped when she saw the building’s height.
“It just looked huge, gigantic,” she said. “Given the current climate in this town for development, of course they’re going to try to shove a monster development onto a tiny footprint.”
Sheehan said she informed Unity Temple’s director of operations, Elizabeth Plummer, about the proposal. Plummer did not respond to calls from Wednesday Journal about the project.
Prescott said in a telephone interview prior to the meeting that there will be a public process, and “there will be ample opportunity for public input and comment, but we’re not there yet.”
He declined to discuss any details about the building’s height, size or number of units.
Prescott did reveal that Golub representatives have had “informal discussions” with the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation. The developer has not submitted any formal plans to the village, he said.
Courtland residents were notified by its condo board in a letter, which stated that “the village informed us that a developer is submitting a proposal to construct a high-rise, luxury rental building on the [parking] lot” on the west side of the condo building.
“If their proposal, along with the requested variances, is approved by the village and the relevant commissions, construction could begin in late 2019,” the letter to Courtland residents notes.
The letter further stated that Glazier and Golub’s civic affairs consultant and architect would attend the meeting.
A public hearing for all residents of Oak Park will be held in late November, according to the letter.