A proposal to build a five-story apartment complex on the empty lot at 261 Washington Blvd. got appreciative nods from the Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission during its Oct. 15 meeting. 

Proposed by Ambrosia Homes Inc., the apartment building will have 28 units with 28 parking spots, located on the first floor. Each unit will have an attached balcony. 

“This is essentially a frame building,” Ambrosia Homes President Tim Pomaville said of the building’s design.

The lot is located in the Ridgeland-Oak Park Historic District. As such, any proposal to build in the area is subject to an advisory review from the Historic Preservation Commission prior to going to the Plan Commission. The site, just east of Percy Julian Middle School, was once home to a three-story 1920s-era apartment building. That building was destroyed by fire almost exactly five years ago this week.

Commissioner Lou Garapolo, an architect,  was pleased with the amount of brick used in the design, calling it “very effective.”

Garapolo found the multiple renderings provided by Ambrosia Homes very helpful in understanding how the building would look from different viewpoints. 

“I think it looks good,” Garapolo said.

While Commissioner Noel Wiedner also expressed appreciation for the renderings, he wanted Ambrosia Homes to do something to make the proposed building more visually interesting, suggesting using texturized bricks.

Commissioner David Sokol wanted to know if the proposed development could have roof access for residents. Roof access would require a small rooftop lobby and an elevator that goes all the way to the top, according to Pomaville. Those additions would change the categorization of the building from five-stories to six-stories and require a steel building frame instead of the planned wood frame.

“It’s cost prohibitive,” said Pomaville. “That’s why we put balconies in every unit.”

The balcony plan got a mixed reaction from Chair Rebecca Houze.

“I’m sure people will enjoy balconies. Whenever I see them though, sometimes they seem a little out of character for the other apartment buildings right around here,” Houze said.

Houze appreciated the complex’s brick façade and the variation to its roofline. She also appreciated that the proposed building was similar in size and scale to the apartment building that once stood on the now empty lot. 

Commissioner Sandra Carr felt the proposed project suitable for that particular part of the Ridgeland-Oak Park Historic District. 

“I think this is appropriate for that area,” Commissioner Sandra Carr told the applicant.

Having concluded the Historic Preservation Commission part of the development process, Ambrosia Homes will go before the Plan Commission next. The Plan Commission will receive a written review of the proposal from the Historic Preservation Commission. 

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