On Feb. 23, the Oak Park Architectural Review Commission, an arm of the village’s Historic Preservation Commission, heard a proposal from Ambrosia Homes for a five-story residential development at the northwest corner of Chicago and Ridgeland Avenues.

The property at 505 N. Ridgeland Ave. is presently occupied by a shuttered one-story medical office building and a parking lot. The non-conforming building is located in the village’s Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District.

Tim Pomaville, president of Ambrosia Homes, says the building would be the developer’s third multifamily development in the village. Boutique Flats, at 504 Lyman Ave., was completed almost two years ago and offers 23 rental apartments. 

The existing one-story office building on the northwest corner of Chicago and Ridgeland avenues. | Google maps

Ridgeland Flats, at 261 Washington Blvd. is under construction at Washington Boulevard and Cuyler Avenue and will have 28 units when it is completed in fall 2023.

Pomaville said the Chicago and Ridgeland development is in the very early stages, but states that it will have some similarity to Ambrosia’s other Oak Park apartment buildings.

“Essentially, we build mid-rise, Class A, luxury apartment buildings,” he said. “The buildings are very similar. They have parking onsite, elevators, luxury finishes, a pet spa, workout rooms. They are sort of like the nice high-rises near Lake and Harlem, but in a smaller building. These are meant to compete with the best of the best in Oak Park.”

Drawings for the proposed development are for zoning and preliminary planning purposes, and the building will likely go through many changes during the planning process. Based on the preliminary plans, Pomaville says the building will have 36 units for rent. 

Boutique Flats on Lyman is completely rented, and Pomaville says there is strong interest in rentals buildings like these.

“There’s so much beautiful architecture in Oak Park, but some of the vintage buildings aren’t great to live in,” Pomaville said. “Our two bedroom-units have two bathrooms. We have in-unit laundry, modern heating and cooling and finishes. I call it the millennial dream.”

While comparable to the newly built high rises in terms of amenities and finishes, Pomaville notes that the mid-rise buildings appeal to people who want a smaller living experience and the ability to know all of their neighbors.

Prior to meeting with the ARC, Pomaville consulted with Oak Park Village Planner Craig Failor and Zoning Administrator Mike Bruce as well as the village’s architectural design consultant, Wight & Co. As a result of that back and forth, he recessed the fifth floor of the building and added more details and recessed the Chicago Avenue entry of the building. 

Ambrosia Homes’ 23-unit Boutique Flats on Lyman Avenue (above), completed about two years ago is completely rented, according to the company’s president, Tim Pomaville. | Courtesy boutiqueflatsop.com

A 7-foot landscaped buffer is required between the development and the single-family home to the north, and according to Pomaville, Failor and Bruce also suggested making that buffer as large as possible. 

The first floor of the building would consist of covered parking and the building’s common areas. Failor and Bruce suggested that Pomaville incorporate commercial-style windows on that level to blend in with the commercial buildings on Chicago Avenue.

At the ARC review, which is advisory, Historic Preservation Commissioner Andrew Elders voiced concerns that a five-story building is too tall for the site, and referenced four-story, masonry buildings further east along Chicago Avenue as good models for multifamily buildings in the neighborhood.

“It’s a little more Madison Street than it is Chicago Avenue,” Elders said.

Pomaville said those older four-story buildings do not have onsite parking and would not meet current code and that his building is essentially four-stories of residences atop the required parking of one space per unit.

Acting ARC and HPC Chairman Lou Garapolo said he lives in the area of the proposed development and felt the height, massing and form of the building do not relate to the historic district.

Pomaville said he was open to the ARC’s thoughts on materials that would help the building fit into its historic neighborhood. The other corners of the intersection, comprised of a gas station, Domino’s Pizza and a strip mall with a dry cleaner and nail salon, do not provide much in the way of architectural inspiration, so he looked to the neighborhood’s single-family homes for design inspiration.

The developer next heads to a meeting of the entire Historic Preservation Commission on at 7:30 p.m. on March 15 at the Oak Park Village Hall, 123 Madison St., for an advisory opinion.

That opinion would then be considered by the Plan Commission before the village board makes a decision on whether or not to greenlight the project. Along the way, Ambrosia will hold required meetings with neighbors of the proposed development.

Pomaville notes that on previous projects he has worked with the village to create buildings that fit into the neighborhood and expects this process will yield similar results. 

“We basically just try to incorporate the feedback from committee meetings into the drawings,” he said.

Under the best of circumstances, he foresees the planning process lasting at least six months before a final design is agreed upon. That could lead to a groundbreaking by summer of 2024.

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