For those who remember Oak Park Village Board meetings lasting until midnight while he was president, it was no surprise that David Pope’s One View, published in last week’s Viewpoints section was anything but brief [Austin & Van Buren will be a game-changer, Viewpoints, Dec. 1]. However, what he didn’t say about the 6-plus-story building proposed by the Oak Park Residence Corporation speaks volumes.
Mr. Pope wrote that “a small, vocal group of neighbors are responding out of fear” in their opposition to the proposed development at Austin and Van Buren. But he doesn’t describe what they fear, dismissing their concerns as if he were FDR. Pope doesn’t address the details people find wrong with this project.
Among them: Is it really transit-related development? One can walk to the Blue line, and maybe the 45-unit building will be good for the shops in the Harrison Street Art District. But the site is a mile from the nearest grocery store on Madison. There aren’t any east/westbound buses on Madison Street in Oak Park to ease the burden of tenants carrying groceries back home to Van Buren and Austin.
Regarding affordability, Pope dodged my question with a vague answer earlier this year after the OPRC’s dog-and-pony show community meeting required by the village’s Planned Development Ordinance. I asked him how many of the 12 units in the existing building at 7 Van Buren qualify as “affordable” units. My premise was/is that if 100% of the existing units have affordable rents, then limiting such units to 20% in the new building will actually mean a net loss of three affordable units at that OPRC location. And those may not be the only reduction of affordable units among the OPRC’s current real estate holdings.
The WJ editorial [ResCorp’s Austin Blvd. vision, Viewpoints, Dec. 1] reported that the OPRC is recapitalizing by selling a California-style building (similar to 7 Van Buren) that it owns near West Suburban Hospital. How many affordable units are in that building, and will the purchaser maintain any of the affordable rents there upon completion of the sale? Will the sale result in the further loss of affordable units to middle-to-lower income renters, such as support staff at the hospital?
As long-winded as Pope’s rationale for OPRC’s proposed development is, I hope that “the thoughtful, sound, deliberative judgment of plan commissioners and of village board members” he references see the holes in his arguments, and vote against the excessive redevelopment plans for 7 Van Buren.