Oak Park’s Plan Commission approved the modified design plan Jan. 23 for the senior residential community planned for 711 and 725 Madison St. Applicant American House made the changes based on comments given at its last plan commission meeting Dec. 5. 

“There actually have been rather significant changes to what was shown last. Much of it has to do with the massing of the building,” Dale Watchowski, REDICO and American House CEO, told the Wednesday Journal prior to the Jan. 23 meeting. 

American House is an affiliate of REDICO, a commercial real development company.

Changes to the plan include reducing the maximum height to 82 feet from the originally intended 90. Along Wesley Avenue and the adjacent neighborhood, the building height was reduced to 50 feet and a horizontal setback above 50 feet as measured from the far side of the alley was increased to 50 feet. 

“When you look at the building from the street, while we’ve maintained the number of floors and we’ve been pretty consistent in the number of units, what we did was we lowered some of the floor heights,” Watchowski said.

According to Watchowski, the building was also reconfigured so it wouldn’t look as large when viewed from the adjacent neighborhoods. The reconfiguration also allows for more airspace.

The new design plan also considered the concerns surrounding garbage collection. The doors to the trash room were relocated to the easement or sideyard side of the building, so they do not open directly to the alley and the neighborhood. Garbage trucks will still collect the trash in the alley. 

“I believe that it should be more well received,” Watchowski said. “We heard them and were responsive to their request.” 

The new plan also pushed the proposed Euclid Avenue cul de sac 10 feet north of the alley. The original location limited the accessibility of the fire department. The new cul de sac positioning necessitates the removal of an additional tree.

A diverter was added to stop southbound traffic on Wesley Avenue from entering the neighborhood but allows for emergency access.

“We rely on the community to better understand what they’re looking for and what would translate into a desirable project,” said Watchowski.  

According to Watchowski, the company met with a neighborhood group Jan. 15 to show them how their comments were being addressed. Some 18 people attended.

“From the feedback we got last night, [the updated design plan] was well received,” he said. “We listened and we tried to act on the requests of the neighborhood.”

Watchowski commends village staff for their assistance throughout this process. 

“We’ve been very pleased with the relationship we’ve had with the village. They have been nothing short of amazing,” he said. “The staff there has been just remarkable leading us through the development.”

The intended senior housing community has 76 independent living units, 65 assisted living units and 33 memory care units for a total of 174 units or 222 beds.

“We try to build our communities to serve the needs of residents so that they can age in place. As your needs increase, we can move you to a different part of the building,” said Watchowski. 

The building has separate floors for independent living, assisted living and memory care.

“We refer to it as a continuum of care,” said Watchowski. “As your needs change, we should be able to care for you and that includes moving you into a memory care unit if that need does arise.”

At the Jan. 23 meeting, a motion to approve, with a list of 16 conditions, the building design portion of the project passed 6-2. Conditions include LEED certification for the project and a requirement that American House install public art at the site or make a monetary donation to the Oak Park Art Fund. 

Even with the pared down height, the building’s mass still concerned Plan Commission Chair David Mann, who voted against the motion. Commissioner Jeff Foster also gave a negative vote. 

The plan commission also approved American House’s request to vacate a portion of South Euclid Avenue.

The project, along with the plan commission’s recommendations and conditions, will now go before the village board for final approval.

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