One of the proposed designs presented at the Oct. 8 meeting at Austin Town Hall. | Provided

When it comes to what community members want to replace the Mars candy factory 2019 N. Oak Park Ave. in Galewood once it closed in 2024, the people have spoken. Residents have settled on a mixed-use development for the site.

During the fifth and final public meeting about the site’s future development held on Oct. 19 at the new elementary school at Riis Park, 6100 W. Fullerton Ave. in Belmont-Cragin, community members saw some conceptual designs presented by representatives with Teska Associates, a landscape architecture firm based in Evanston.

Scott Goldstein, a principal with Teska, presented three design proposals at the fourth public meeting on Oct. 8 at Austin Town Hall, 5610 Lake St. in Austin. Attendees then selected the one they liked the most.

“So this is a factory with walls,” Goldstein said on Oct. 8. “Now we’re trying to create a community without walls.”

The design proposal that the majority of community members recommended during the fourth meeting features a “boulevard” design, which is a style that provides lots of green space and is bifurcated into seven different areas.

One area includes roughly three acres designed for neighborhood commercial or healthcare uses. Another seven acres is split in two, with one side dedicated to a training, education or recreation space. The other half would house offices and a business incubator.

Additional acreage will be divided into a space housing an outdoor classroom, a wildlife habitat space and an area dedicated to urban farming and renewable energy, among other uses.

A landscaped boulevard path will stretch throughout the areas for access and a service road along the railroad will allow trucks to travel to the urban farming or business areas, eliminating residential traffic on the other side of the site, Goldstein said.

During the fourth meeting on Oct. 8, Kandalyn Hahn, representing the historic preservation division of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, said she’s confident that once a status report is complete, the city will focus on preserving the factory’s original facade dating to 1929.

“The majority of landmark preservations only concern the exterior,” she said. “That means whatever you want to do to the interior — you can do it.”

Whether or not the site will become a landmark, however, comes down to a City Council vote following the completion of the report.

Hahn said the Mars factory site is considered an orange-rated building, meaning it has significance within a neighborhood context. She said the determination of landmark status is a six- to 12-month process.

She said the commission has met with Mars representatives to notify them of the building’s orange-rated status. A consultant has begun examining the building’s history and architecture to determine if it meets at least two of the seven criteria for landmark status.

Brian Hacker, the West Side coordinating planner for the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, said the Mars site would likely need to go through a series of zoning changes to accommodate the proposed design changes.

Hacker said the site is within the Armitage industrial corridor and also comprises the 15th Planned Manufacturing District. Any uses within the area that fall outside of manufacturing and industry would require amending the city’s current zoning ordinances that govern the Mars site’s development.

The zoning changes need to go through extensive departmental reviews and public hearings before making their way to the City Council for approval. Hacker said more public meetings will happen over the course of the factory’s redevelopment.

The design recommendation made by attendees over the course of the five meetings will be reviewed by Mars executives, who will make the final decision about the factory’s future.

Following this decision, Mars will communicate with the community on a quarterly basis to update residents on the decision and buildout process, said Ben Anders, the sponsorship and engagement manager at Mars.

The updates will be posted via “various channels” to reach a wide audience, Anders said, adding that he doesn’t know yet what exactly those channels will be.

CONTACT: michael@austinweeklynews.com

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