I object to the proposed development at 203 S. Marion and urge you to deny approval.

The uninspired massing and lifeless cubic form is not compatible with the surrounding vibrant buildings in the Ridgeland-Oak Park Historic District. Its fenestration proportion and scale are also out of character with surrounding historic buildings.

The apartment units at street level in this viable business district will be detrimental to the continuity of retail commerce. Giving these units a chic upmarket name will not improve their appearance. The proposed small coffee shop at the corner will be inadequate to sustain pedestrian traffic.

The height of 84 feet, 10 inches is at least triple the height of the mixed-use two-story building to the east on Marion Street and double the height of the adjacent Carlton Hotel and Decker Building at 220 S. Maple.

The contribution to the affordable housing fund in lieu of incorporation of affordable units within the development should not be permitted. I encourage the village board to require developers to always provide affordable apartments which are seamlessly integrated into their projects. The use of a development fund to build future affordable housing projects will likely lead to housing developments visually and physically separated from the majority of the village. As you know, such a plan has a long history of urban devastation.

Developers’ proposed “compensating benefits” are vastly insufficient to offset the valuable profit increase they are requesting.

I continue to be concerned that there has been a spate of recent planned developments which have been awarded lenience from current zoning metric and statutory design standards without much, if any, real public benefits in exchange. It seems to me that both the Plan Commission and the village board simply considers any new building proposal to be compensating enough in and of themselves to be approved.

If the parking garage were to be entirely located below grade, the two out-of-character maisonette apartments could be removed and a deep, accessible landscaped courtyard could be positioned in the center of the east façade fronting on Marion Street. The building height should be reduced to five stories to be a good neighbor within the adjacent urban setting. 

I believe that a really pleasing and high-quality architectural statement can be built on this significant site. It should serve as a valued exemplar for future replacement or infill buildings in Oak Park.

Frank Heitzman, AIA, Oak Park

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