Drechsler Brown & Williams Funeral Home could be laid to rest and the property resurrected into a multi-story apartment complex. As part of the development process in Oak Park, the proposal to demolish the 140-year-old white clapboard structure will go before the Historic Preservation Commission on Sept. 10.
Development group Focus has filed for a certificate of appropriateness to allow for demolition of the funeral home which is located in the Ridgeland-Oak Park Historic District.
Focus’s intention is to build a multi-unit apartment complex — under 12 stories — on the Drechsler property, 203 S. Marion St., according to John Lynch, head of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation (OPEDC). The complex may have a small space for retail, around the size of a coffee shop.
“The Historic Preservation Commission has to say it’s appropriately slated for demolition,” said Tammie Grossman, Oak Park’s development customer services director. “It’s appropriate to demolish that building if it’s not a contributing structure to the overall sense of the historic preservation district itself.”
Come Sept. 10, the Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission will meet to determine if the building does indeed contribute to the historic district in a virtual public meeting with Focus. Focus previously came to the Historic Preservation Commission June 17, when the commission decided to take no action to give the developers the chance to hold a public hearing.
“If the Historic Preservation Commission says they cannot demolish the building, then the applicant has the right to take it to a court hearing before the village board,” Grossman said.
If the commission gives its approval, Focus can file for a demolition permit to raze the funeral home and its garage structure. The Historic Preservation Commission would then provide an advisory review of Focus’s proposed structure to the Plan Commission. Neither Lynch nor Grossman have received preliminary renderings or plans from Focus.
In that June 17 meeting, it was revealed former Plan Commission Chair David Mann has been hired as the project’s architect. Mann is no longer affiliated with the commission as his term as chair ended in May. The mayor of Oak Park has not yet named a successor.
Focus has built multiple buildings in Oak Park, including Euclid Commons the multi-building residential, retail and parking complex at Lake Street and Euclid Avenue.
While Focus has not actively pursued development opportunities in Oak Park in recent years, Lynch said he has remained in contact with the development professionals at Focus. According to Lynch, Focus has had “mixed experiences working” toward developments in Oak Park.
“I’ve known them professionally for a long time and spent a lot of time with them to try to let them know what was going on here and that there had been some changes in outlook and a desire to bring the kind of development that they do here,” Lynch said.