Focus Development shared its plans to build a 98-foot-tall, eight story apartment building at 203 S. Marion St. in a virtual public meeting Oct. 29. The property is currently home to Oak Park staple Drechsler, Brown & Williams funeral home and under contract to be sold to Focus. The Oak Park village board on Oct. 5 granted Focus a certificate of appropriateness for demolition of the historic structure.

In its place, Focus intends to build a courtyard style apartment building with 191 units, six of which will be two-story duplexes, also referred to as maisonettes. The duplexes will have private landscaped areas, for which Focus is seeking zoning relief. The plans include a retail space of 1,125 square feet, out of which Focus aims to have a café serving coffee and pastries. David Mann, former chair of Oak Park’s Plan Commission, is serving as the project’s architect. He works for the firm Booth Hansen

Amenities for tenants include private co-working spaces, a dog run, a fitness area and yoga studio, game room and an outdoor terrace with a pool and firepits. If approved for construction, Focus has a goal of Feb. 2023 as a move-in date for tenants. Construction would begin next summer.

Focus chose the Marion Street property to build a transit-oriented complex based on its high walkability and close proximity to the Metra and CTA, but construction plans also include 149 covered parking spaces, some of which will be below ground.

Reactions to the proposed building varied among attendees. Several raised concerns over the potential impact on traffic the building would generate. Focus representatives stated the company is working with traffic and parking consultants to conduct impact studies.

Other attendees found the proposed building unattractive. The design received criticism for its industrial look, with some attendees comparing it to a warehouse and a factory.

When asked why the building was designed to resemble a warehouse, Mann stated his team looked to other buildings in the area when developing the concept.

“We very quickly settled on a brick building,” Mann said.

From there, it became a decision of where to put the entrances and windows, according to Mann.

“That’s kind of how we came up with the design of the building,” he said.

Still in the early stages of the development process, the design is not set in stone. Mann told the meeting attendees that he would take their aesthetic critiques into consideration.

The building has a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartment units. The two-story duplexes will be available in a combination of two and three bedrooms. Ballpark rents range from just under $1,600 for a studio to upwards of $5,000 a month for the duplexes. A one-bedroom unit, about 717 square feet in size, will have a monthly rental rate of about $2,000.

Per Oak Park’s inclusionary housing ordinance, Focus plans to pay $1.9 million to the village’s affordable housing fund in lieu of letting 10 percent of the building’s apartments, roughly seven units, to renters making 60 percent of the area median income.

Designing for COVID

The Focus Development planned for Marion Street has been designed largely during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. While describing the amenities planned for the high end eight story apartment building, we asked if there were COVID specific features.

Justin Pelej, senior vice president at Focus, described three.

  • Each unit will have a built-in desk space as an alternative to having at home workers converting their kitchens or bedrooms into a home office.
  • The building will have co-working spaces available but each space will be fully private.
  • Mechanical systems are being designed to bring fresh air to each unit rather than recycling air throughout the building.

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