Plans for the village-owned property at Oak Park Avenue and Madison Street continue to evolve — by some measures to reduce. The developer and, by its 6-1 vote, Oak Park’s village board would seemingly suggest a project finding its proper level.
In its new version, still to go back through a public approval process, we have a modern, upscale grocery store on the north side of Madison. Gone are early plans to layer on high-end apartments above the store and a fair amount of added retail adjacent. Now it is simply Oak Park’s second Pete’s Fresh Market with 215 parking spaces, mostly surface level, some underground.
The most interesting nugget from this meeting? Pete’s Stephanie Dremonas says every extra parking space calculates to an added $150,000 in annual sales. So while developers always decry the cost of building parking below grade, those 80 spaces could multiply out to an added $12 million in groceries and a boost to Oak Park’s sales tax take.
For those who think Oak Park has been packing too much development into every crevice and cranny, this might seem a good middle place. Critics who want to save and incorporate the old Packard car dealership into the new grocery seemingly will have to settle for a respectful nod as Pete’s says it looks to salvage some terracotta and the remarkable gargoyles into a design element of the new store.
We’ve worried that Oak Park has been trying too hard to force new retail into new projects. If the Eleven33 mid-rise at Harlem and South ever conjures up better than a fitness studio and physical therapy outpost, we’ll hand out hundred-dollar bills. So dropping a planned 6,000-square-foot outbuilding on the corner of Madison and Oak Park is OK by us. Trustees rightly raised concerns that the landscaping and the capstone at that intersection will have to be well above minimum standards.
Across the street, where the village wound up with another old car dealership, the new plan is the same as the old. A different developer is stepping in to build something shy of 200 units of senior housing. A blend of assisted living, independent living and memory care units will now be built by a different developer. Not a notable change.
But a notable missed opportunity seems to have been spotted by Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla who pressed the developer on why the project had no affordable units for seniors. Did this developer offer such units in negotiations in other communities? The answer was yes. Here’s a place that Oak Park can do better going forward. Surely the demand for affordable housing among seniors is on the rise.