New tower planned for downtown Oak Park

Developer plans meeting with neighbors

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Albion Residential is planning to build a new mixed-use residential tower at the northwest corner of Lake Street and Forest Avenue, 1000 Lake St., right across the street from the 21-story Vantage Oak Park building.

The development company is holding a community meeting on Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. at the 19th Century Club, 178 Forest Ave., to discuss the proposal with neighboring residents and businesses.

The project would mean the long-expected demolition of the two-story brick building at the site, which was purchased in August 2014 by UrbanStreet Group LLC, along with the adjacent seven-story building at 1010 Lake St., for $6.95 million. 

Andrew Yule, Albion's vice president of development, said in a telephone interview that his firm is currently in negotiations with UrbanStreet, and its partner North American Properties, to purchase the property.

Yule was short on details because of the negotiations, but he said Albion wants to work with neighbors and the community "to deliver a product that everyone will be appreciative of."

He noted that the building would not be taller than the Vantage tower, which was completed last year, and that, like Vantage, it would be a mix of luxury apartments, ground-level retail and parking.

The community meeting aims to discuss density, shadows cast by the structure and the general form and size of the building.

The discussion of shadows could be a make-or-break topic for the project, due to its proximity to Austin Gardens, a public park that recently built an environmental education center building powered by solar panels.

Park advocates already are eyeing the site's potential for a large-scale project with some concern. 

Paul Aeschleman, president of the board of the Park District of Oak Park, said in September that the board has already discussed the issue and has concerns about the shadow that would be cast over the park and the effect it would have on vegetation, solar panels and the overall park experience.

In an interview Monday, Aeschleman said he's had preliminary discussions about the project with Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb and John Lynch, executive director of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation, which works with the village to attract and retain business in Oak Park.

Aeschleman said the meeting primarily aimed to "talk about getting the park district involved in the discussion." He said park district representatives will attend the Jan. 30 meeting to find out more.

While the park district board has not taken a formal position on a potential project, park district spokeswoman Diane Stanke said in September that it is the park district's position that eight stories is a preferable height for a project at the site.

That is the height allowable under current zoning, so it's likely that Albion aims to build taller. 

UrbanStreet and North American Properties proposed an eight-story, mixed-use apartment building for the site in November 2014, but after submitting the preliminary plan for the 140-unit building, conversation inexplicably stopped.

UrbanStreet began marketing the parcel of land in summer of 2016, through the commercial real estate firm CBRE, as a property capable of accommodating a 16-story building with 189 units and 5,800 square feet of ground-level retail space and enough parking to accommodate 306 vehicles.

If Albion does intend to build taller than eight stories, it would require review and approval from Oak Park village government commissions and ultimately Oak Park's village board. 

Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said in a telephone interview that the meeting with Aeschleman aimed to involve the park district in the conversation.

"We'd love to have (Albion) invest in our community, but we want to make sure we do all the due diligence and make sure stakeholders are aware of what's about to take place," he said about the forthcoming proposal.

He noted that the existing two-story building – built in 1956 as a Lytton's department store – stands vacant and "has been on the market for some time."

Albion is holding the meeting to open a dialogue with the community and is not required to do so by village ordinance, Abu-Taleb said, adding that he and other village officials have encouraged Albion to release information to the public as soon as possible to build trust with the community.

He encouraged residents to approach the project with an open mind and in the spirit of cooperation.

"If we can protect the interests of the community and get a quality project, why would anyone in their right mind be opposed to that?" he asked.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Heather Ash  

Posted: January 31st, 2017 11:33 AM

It was not a meeting. It was poster boards and a handful of developers' representatives who were theoretically writing down concerns. In response to mine, I was told, "Yes, we've heard that," without writing. No presentation, no summation of facts (you had to make your way to several different posterboards.) Meanwhile, lots of neighbors were talking to each other, and no one looked happy. We were promised a meeting, not a science fair.

Mark Ruehl from Oak Park  

Posted: January 27th, 2017 8:14 PM

I agree with Tom. In addition, I don't really care how tall the building is as long it is beautiful and architecturally significant.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 27th, 2017 6:42 PM

Please everyone show up Jan 30th, 6PM and pack the halls at the 19th Century Club. Do not let Albion destroy Austin Gardens.

Laura K. Stamp from Oak Park  

Posted: January 27th, 2017 5:36 PM

A building higher than 8 stories absolutely will have a devastating effect on the trees and plants of Austin Gardens. National standards call for 500 acres of open space for a population like ours; Oak Park has 82. Keeping Austin Gardens thriving should be a top priority for the health and well-being of our citizens. Read more about this at http://tinyurl.com/jjfnvok or like Austin Guards or Austin Gardens on Facebook.

Carolyn Cullen from Oak Park  

Posted: January 26th, 2017 7:39 AM

Here's a look at having it as a park, plus more info on the meeting. https://www.facebook.com/AustinGuards/?fref=ts&ref=br_tf

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: January 22nd, 2017 12:53 PM

HERE WE GO AGAIN ?" With minimal advanced info the village has scheduled a Board Meeting on Monday night at 7:00 to discuss the revisiting of the OVERALL PARKING SYSTEM within Oak Park in a holistic (comprehensive) manner and with consideration for neighborhoods and business districts in order to understand the impact on residents, visitors and employees in the community. As a part of this meeting, staff will review the recommended goals for this review and a proposed schedule.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: January 19th, 2017 7:13 PM

Are taxpayers expected to provide any incentives to the developer and has the Village Board pledged any assistance regarding financing, zoning and permits? Abu-Taleb and the trustees too often seem content with keeping residents in the dark regarding their plans. The developer is being encouraged to release information in order to build trust with the community. Good advice that should also apply to our elected officials.

Elizabeth Yeazel  

Posted: January 19th, 2017 4:08 PM

@Tom & @Brian: Thank you for the suggestions. We do not have children so the school district is not a consideration for us.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: January 19th, 2017 3:48 PM

@ Elizabeth Yeazel: Try Westchester or Lagrange,

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: January 19th, 2017 2:40 PM

@Elizabeth. I hope you stay in town. "Luxury" seems to be a bit overused, but its new and will be nice so why not call it luxury. The $600k condos are not being marketed to people your age, that is for older people leaving a regular home. You should consider buying a 2 flat and renting out half, something you could afford and something OP has to offer. Lets be real - you are not moving to Chicago with your two cars and young kids because you don't want the kids in Chicago schools and parking there stinks. The luxury of OP is that its like the city but its not the city. And its not super boring like your other choices, the true suburbs. And we have to go vertical to allow growth without using up green space.

Elizabeth Yeazel  

Posted: January 19th, 2017 2:04 PM

I would like to know who the Village thinks will live in all these "luxury" apartments? I am 30 years old. My husband and I have been renting in Oak Park for nearly 7 years. We are lucky to make a good income between the two of us, but still cannot justify spending nearly $3k/month (including parking for 2 vehicles) to live in a small 2-bedroom apartment in the new Vantage building. It feels like a ripoff! And we certainly cannot afford a condo in the new District House property (former Tasty Dog location) at $600,000 for a 3 bedroom. If I am correct to assume that young professionals are one of the target demographics for many of these new builds-- they need to reconsider how they are priced. Especially if they are going to be on every corner. If we wanted to live in a "tower" we would move downtown Chicago (a feasible option given the rate for OP "luxury"). When we moved to Oak Park it was for the trees, the squirrels, and the green space. We are planning to purchase a home next year and while we love the historic and charming vibe of Oak Park, we may have to look elsewhere if this kind of reckless development continues.

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: January 19th, 2017 12:20 PM

Brian - would not be surprised!!

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: January 19th, 2017 8:49 AM

. Is it possible that the Village of Oak Park is on the verge of bankruptcy and that the only way to generate tax revenue to pay the bills is to build high rises to generate more tax index numbers in order to bail out the bankrupt village?

Paul Obis from Paul Obis  

Posted: January 18th, 2017 8:35 PM

Another high-rise at the corner of Lake Street and Forest Ave? Crazy and stupid. The street infrastructure cannot deal with the traffic. I am not against increasing, population, but it should be better planned. Harlem and South Blvd would be a much better location. Another hi

Stephanie Walquist  

Posted: January 18th, 2017 8:35 PM

Please take a moment to read a letter about an associated issue--the impact on migrating birds. Their populations are already in steep decline. http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/1-17-2017/Save-the-birds-from-glass-tower-collisions/

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: January 18th, 2017 7:34 PM

Monday, Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. at the 19th Century Club, 178 Forest Ave. It's in my calendar. See y'all there.

David Gulbransen  

Posted: January 18th, 2017 6:45 PM

Well, since there is an election coming up, perhaps we can put this item to the candidates to see how they feel, and vote accordingly. I'm not anti-development, but I find it hard to believe that a high-rise there wouldn't have a very negative impact on traffic--and if it's tall enough to cast a shadow over the park, ruining the environmental center, then why even have a park? Why not another high-rise. And hey, that club where they are having the meeting is *so* 19th Century. Why don't get rid of that, too, and make some progress with another high-rise? High-rises everywhere!!!

Carolyn Cullen  

Posted: January 18th, 2017 5:13 PM

People need more for quality of life than more residential and retail buildings unless all of the existing ones are 100% full (never happens). It's unlikely given greed and desired taxes but I agree that space would make a wonderful PARK, opening Austin Gardens to Lake Street and providing much needed green space for residents and visitors.

Tom MacMillan  

Posted: January 18th, 2017 4:29 PM

how does this building help the community? It adds customers to all the services oriented shops in downtown so there are lots of them to choose from and they thrive. Customers who can walk to those restaurants, walk to the Lake Theater, walk to the Green Line. We need more of that to make it all work. And this removes an unused eyesore of a building that is outdated and unusable. The worries about blotting out the sun are ridiculous.

Haney Ned  

Posted: January 18th, 2017 3:28 PM

Probably a great time to redistrict the map of the elementary schools and ease the burden on Holmes.

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: January 18th, 2017 3:12 PM

Jim Coughlin has lived in Oak Park for years. He worked for years at the village. He is a gentleman, is smart, and knows how Oak Park life should be. Read Jim's Post - He's on the mark!

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: January 18th, 2017 2:24 PM

Oppose this project and you are not in your right mind. That's the unqualified diagnosis from Abu-Taleb and one that certainly does not welcome any real dialogue with the community. Citizens who have concerns about density, traffic, safety, environmental impact on the residential neighborhood, overcrowding at Holmes school or the future of Austin Gardens will be speaking to a Village President and board of trustees who've already decided to proceed with this project. Abu-Taleb claims to want to protect the interests of the community and wants us to have an open mind even after he's closed his own.

Tom Bassett-Dilley from Oak Park  

Posted: January 18th, 2017 12:23 PM

Having designed the new building at Austin Gardens, I got to know the value of that unique park much better, thanks to PDOP and Carol Yetken's office (landscape architect, the lead on the project). The big question the public needs to hear adequately answered in all these projects is, what are the compensating benefits these large developments will provide? The Board allows them to make a lot more money by building beyond what code allows, and how does it help the community? Yes, transit-oriented-development is part of the regional master plan, but do these specifically support a long-term plan the community believes in? And it's not just about the accounting of tax revenue--quality of life and understanding the long-term economic benefit of nature, not to mention the precedent of solar access, should be considered. I'll be there January 30.

J.Martin Konecki from Oak Park  

Posted: January 18th, 2017 10:33 AM

Pardon my error in direction. East from Harlem and West from Oak Park Ave. Mind you 3 of the stop lights between OP ave and Harlem on Lake st are not typical 2 way light cycles. 1.Kenilworth/Lake 2. Forest/Lake 3. Marion/Lake

J.Martin Konecki from Oak Park  

Posted: January 18th, 2017 10:29 AM

Traffic traffic traffic. Building ONE huge high rise on that corner was questionable due to traffic and congestion concerns. Why in the world would we allow ANOTHER?!?! There also is a sense of space that is changed forever by having these high rises so close. I suggest anyone drive down Lake st in either direction, West from Harlem and or East from Oak Park Ave at any non "rush hour" day time hour and you will see for yourself how backed up it ALREADY gets with what's there now, not including the new Target open yet or the commercial space at Lake and Forest even open for business. Please say NO to another high rise. It's like putting a square peg in a round hole-it just doesn't work in an effective manner.

Jim Egeberg  

Posted: January 18th, 2017 5:18 AM

Will this end any sun getting into Austin Gardens, effectively killing all the vegetation in the Garden?

Jolyn Crawford  

Posted: January 18th, 2017 12:03 AM

When is a smart developer going to build a nice hotel for all of our visitors, or am I missing something?

Rani Morrison from Oak Park  

Posted: January 18th, 2017 12:01 AM

So tell us again how this won't impact school enrollment...Holmes is TEEMING, and even with the additions, you can't keep adding bodies to these schools!!!! And downtown is terrible!! There's one large building directly across the street, are you really contemplating another one on TOP of Austin Gardens? If Oak Parkers wanted to live in the Loop, we could.

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: January 17th, 2017 10:35 PM

Mary - Is it too late to stop the High-Rise and Developer life?

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: January 17th, 2017 10:29 PM

Oak Park no longer has a sense of being a small town with a big heart. The belief that the village leader saw our homes as a place of forever is no longer true. What was so good; is now headed for a permanent land of Hi Rises and Developers!

Leonard Grossman  

Posted: January 17th, 2017 9:21 PM

Why does Oak Park even entertain the idea of buildings that exceed current height limitations? Eight stories is the very maximum that could be built on the site without causing harm to Austin Gardens and making useless many of the energy efficiencies in the new environmental center on the site. Austin Gardens is a gem, meanwhile the village's skyline is becoming a hodgepodge of taller buildings while older sites remain vacant. Enough already.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 17th, 2017 8:57 PM

Mary, sorry. I somehow wrote May instead of Mary.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 17th, 2017 8:55 PM

May: I and my neighbors (in the FLW district) have literally fought this issue for years. It is an old old story. Once upon a time it was WhiteCo. Oh yeah, it was going to be great, and improve our tax base. Yada, yada, yada. Well look at what we got: a faithful rendition of Soviet architecture. And then Vantage. Well we fought that too: not the idea of development per se. Rather we thought Vantage was too big and not consistent with the idea of a "village." For our efforts we - who live in the neighborhood - were labelled as a bunch of NIMBYs. Maybe this Albion project, as it hovers, like a giant ancient predator, over precious Austin Gardens, will drive home the point that this is not about NIMBYism. Its about the very lifeblood of our Village.

Heinz Schuller  

Posted: January 17th, 2017 7:36 PM

Jeez if I'm Albion I'd just do some math here. Unless I'm mistaken: 270 units - Vantage 271 units - Westgate 250 units - South/Harlem 28 units - Tasty Dog Vantage looks to be what... 1/4 - 1/3 occupied?

Mary Pikul  

Posted: January 17th, 2017 6:36 PM

And here I chose to move to Oak Park 5.5 years ago because of it's quaintness.... Why do people come to Oak Park to visit? 1) FLW tours. 2)They come here to experience its quaintness. A cute theater. A stroll down a cute street. Fun shopping at a little boutique. Great little restaurant. Well, keep building and we will lose that "quaint experience" and thus, lose those persons and that business. Yes, you will probably still get the locals, but keep raising taxes, and more Oak Parkers won't afford to go out. So you need the visitors! It's the main streets of a town that creates the overall feeling of the town or area. Is it quaint with independent shops? That feels like a village. Is it crowded with cars? Lined with high rises? Can't easily park right on the street? That's not a quaint village. Not inviting. That's very urban. Why drive to OP for that? Even I avoid downtown because of the parking. I want to be able to park right on the street not into a big parking garage for Chipotle! Gee whiz. As for the tower...If you can, go to the meeting. Austin Gardens is a gem. And a tower shadowing down on it would be a huge loss to OP. Many FLW tourists walk thru and admire Austin Gardens. But if it's cold and shadowy, then that is the same feeling tourists walk away with. Not to mention OP's own citizens and children who love to picnic in there. Austin Gardens is where my daughter fell in love with OP. It lends itself toward a feeling of artistry and wonder and nature. In my opinion, it would be more lovely to extend the park up to Lake Street. It would be inviting. It would provide balance to Vantage's large tower. A place to stroll with your ice cream cone. It would help the downtown feel quaint. Is that idea even possible? Probably not. But one can hope. Perhaps we should be asking future candidates more questions about their vision for OP. Success? Yes, but at what cost?

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: January 17th, 2017 5:08 PM

Can't be Manhattan. It has plenty of pedestrian streets, sidewalks and large streets. Sure not going to worry any more about the congestion in Oak Park Downtown. It has past the world of casual walking!

Jennifer Malloy Quinlan  

Posted: January 17th, 2017 4:46 PM

Does this mean no new D97 referendum? Surely all these new property taxes will alleviate all the money problems!

Martin A. Berg from Oak Park  

Posted: January 17th, 2017 4:31 PM

Cannot believe that the Village is even considering this. The increased population density alone--never mind the architectural/environmental impact--is enough to vote this down. Downtown Oak Park is turning into Manhattan. Perhaps that's where this project should be located instead.

Wendy Greenhouse  

Posted: January 17th, 2017 4:11 PM

and of course I meant PARK (not MARKET).

Wendy Greenhouse from Oak Park  

Posted: January 17th, 2017 4:10 PM

I can't approach this new proposal with an open mind! How can it be good for Austin Garden, for traffic and street safety in our community, for being able to walk along that stretch of Forest Ave without getting blown over in the wind tunnel already created by Vantage OP? Is there a market for yet more luxury apartments? (UrbanStreet decided to sell rather than build there because they realized OP was already saturated with these.) Does anyone like to market in a cavernous concrete parking garage? Can we stand another blank brick wall like Vantage has given us facing north and east (and why didn't they think of putting in a green wall like the one along the east side of Rush Hospital's recent addition?)? Slow down, OP and business-friendly leaders, and think about the long-term impact.... Better yet, take a gander at all the unleased retail space all over our town. This will NOT be good for OP. I'm staying on the east side of town, away from this booming disaster that is the Lake/Forest/Harlem district.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: January 17th, 2017 4:06 PM

Looking forward to the spectacle of otherwise intelligent elected officials nodding their heads in agreement when the developer tells them this won't impact traffic density.

Jenna Brown Russell  

Posted: January 17th, 2017 3:54 PM

Perhaps the $1M Environmental Education Center built by the OPPD should not have been situated on Austin Garden. A place that will still get sun may have been preferable.

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