Rendering of a new 7-story building for the Drechsler funeral home site. (Provided)

The building proposed for 203 S. Marion [Drechsler Funeral Home site] is simply too big. It’s obvious from the outsize zoning variances the developer demands: from 45 units to 158; from 60 feet in height to 85. These aren’t variances, they’re violations. The result will be a looming presence at the Marion/Pleasant intersection, a bully intruding on a low-rise neighborhood whose historical character is supposed to be protected by village ordinance and our municipal master plan.

The Plan Commission members agree with the Historic Preservation Commission’s conclusion that the building is too big. The developer refuses to consider anything smaller because “that’s not what we build.” In that case, 203 S. Marion is not the right site for their building. And Focus Development is not the right developer for Oak Park.

Unlike some other local sites ripe for redevelopment, 203 S. Marion is a highly desirable location and it’s new to the market. Other developers will see a way to profit with lower-height and lower-density projects that realize community benefits without exacting a high cost in added traffic congestion, shadows, loss of greenscape, and disruption to the integrity of this historical neighborhood.

Remember when Golub & Co. insisted that their economics required at least 250 units in 28 stories at 835 Lake? Now another developer is putting an 84-unit, 7-story building there. It was not the right site for Golub. 203 S. Marion is not the right site for Focus.

This is not a choice between a former funeral home and new development. It’s a choice between an oversized bully shoehorned into the neighborhood and a building that enhances its setting and complements its neighbors. Let’s allow other developers to propose projects that not only profit them but that ensure the full range of benefits for the Oak Park community.

Wendy Greenhouse, Oak Park

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