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.
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