Building Rendering of the proposed seven-story residential complex at 203 S. Marion St. (Rendering by Focus Development)

I would like to state in the strongest way possible my opposition to the development recently approved for the Drechsler Funeral Home site. I object on three issues: 

  • the size and scale of the proposed building: 7 stories, 158 units plus commercial space and coffee shop
  • the negative impact the added congestion will have on the quality of life in the neighborhood
  • the fast way the proposal was seemingly pushed through ignoring local input

I am not opposed to developing this site. I am in favor of a development that is in harmony with the rest of the neighborhood, which this one is clearly not. Every unit will bring at least one car, if not two, adding 150 to 200+ cars to the neighborhood each day. Plans call for only 123 parking spaces; the extra cars will have to park on already crowded streets. 

The first obligation of the Plan Commission should be to ensure development in the village that enhances the well-being and quality of life for Oak Park residents. It is not to enhance village tax revenues nor the profits of developers. Neither the Plan Commission nor the developer has offered a single argument saying this development would improve the quality of life for the residents of the Pleasant District. 

One of the reasons I live in Oak Park is for its sense of tranquility, a respite from the intensity of the big city. If I wanted the density, congestion and hustle and bustle of Chicago, I would live there. The added congestion and traffic of this development will only detract from the quality of life in the Pleasant District. 

This project was made known in the dead of winter during a severe cold spell and in the midst of a pandemic, less-than-ideal circumstances to gather opinions from local residents. One can only conclude that this project was fast-tracked by the Plan Commission for obvious reasons: it would not be popular with the local residents. Indeed, at the last meeting of the Oak Park Village Board, 45 letters opposed vs. four letters in favor were submitted by residents.

The developers want to make their money and get out, while we residents are left to deal with the mess they leave behind. Do we need upward of 150 more cars circulating in the neighborhood on a daily basis? Do we need more empty storefronts? Do we need yet another coffee shop in addition to the five within a block’s walk?  Do we need a building towering over all the others nearby, completely out of harmony with the human scale and historical character of the neighborhood? Will this make life better for the residents of the Pleasant District? Hardly. 

The village board should allow time to canvass the residents of the Pleasant District to gain a clear understanding of their opinions about this project and respond accordingly. In face of such a significant intrusion on their daily lives, it is only fair and correct.

Michael Corso is an Oak Park resident.

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