The plan to build a Pete’s Fresh Market grocery store and senior housing facility in the 700 block of Madison Street got altered by the Oak Park Board of Trustees at its Sept. 3 meeting.
The amended redevelopment agreement with Jupiter Reality, Pete’s (operating under the name Oak Park Madison Street LLC) and Essex Communities (operating as 711 Madison Senior Living LLC) makes a number of substantive changes to the preliminary plan approved by trustees last year.
The amended agreement was approved on a 6-1 vote, with Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla casting the lone “no” vote.
The new agreement removes Essex Communities from the mix, replacing the senior housing developer with Southfield, Michigan-based Redico LLC. It was not discussed why Essex Communities dropped out of the project.
Walker-Peddakotla said in an email that she voted against the proposed changes because the village is not requiring the senior housing developer to include affordable units in the building.
“We need to change the IZO (inclusionary zoning ordinance),” Walker-Peddakotla said. “Developers are willing to build affordable housing – this developer that we’ve added to the project even has affordable senior housing communities in other cities.
“So, the OPEDC (Oak Park Economic Development Corporation) could have pushed them to build affordable units here. We are actively choosing not to build affordable housing in Oak Park.”
The amended agreement also now allows Pete’s to build an 80-space parking garage below the proposed grocery store and drops plans to build a roughly 6,000-square-foot retail building at the corner of Madison Street and South Oak Park Avenue.
The underground parking will add more spaces to accompany the surface parking lot planned for the northeast corner of Madison and Oak Park, bringing the number of total parking spaces to roughly 135 surface spots and 80 underground spots.
That’s compared to about 150 spots at the Pete’s at 259 Lake St., said Pete’s executive officer Stephanie Dremonas. She said that the Lake Street location is so successful that they frequently run out of parking, adding that each parking spot represents approximately $150,000 a year in revenue for the store.
Trustee Dan Moroney said that removing the retail shop from the corner is “an opportunity to do something on the frontage that makes [the corner] more aesthetically pleasing.”
The amended agreement also pushes the completion date for the store back by six months to June 30, 2022, but Dremonas said the company still aims to have the store open by 2021. Construction is expected to begin in March 2021, under the new agreement.
The meeting also revealed that Jupiter and Pete’s are still working with preservationists to save part of the façade of the historic Foley-Rice building at 644 Madison St., where the grocery store will be located.
“Our goal is to preserve what we can and take some of the building materials, some of the terracotta, some of the gargoyles … and memorialize them somewhat, whether it’s inside or outside the building,” Dremonas said.
In March, preservationists attempted to designate the Foley-Rice building a historic landmark to prevent its demolition, but the Oak Park Board of Trustees voted unanimously to reject the plan.
Frank Lipo, executive director of the Oak Park River Forest History Museum, who helped spearhead the effort to save the Foley-Rice building, said plans to save or reuse part of the building is “a step in the right direction.”
He noted that meetings with Tammie Grossman, director of Oak Park’s Development Customer Services Department, revealed that there has been exploration of including housing units on the Pete’s site, but plans for residential units were not included in the amended redevelopment agreement.
Trustees directed the developer and preservationists to work together to attempt to save as much of the building as possible.
Trustee Simone Boutet said she was concerned that the new plan would put a parking lot at the corner of Madison and Oak Park. Trustees and the developer originally planned the retail space at that corner to balance the four-corner intersection with other retail on the commercial corridor.
“I’m hoping the landscaping [around the parking lot] is aesthetically pleasing as possible,” Boutet said.
Trustee Deno Andrews said he was comfortable with the amended agreement because the proposal is still in the early stages of the public process. The developer still must submit an application to the village and receive approval from the Oak Park Plan Commission and the Oak Park Board of Trustees.