The village of Oak Park is considering five proposals from four developers for the village-owned property at the intersection of Harlem Avenue and South Boulevard.
All five proposals for the mixed-use development would include ground-floor retail space. The developers and development teams submitting proposals are: Urban R2; Lincoln Properties and LPC Contractors; Argent Group, Harlem Irving Group, Urban Innovations and Strategic Development Partners; and North American Properties and Urban Street.
The height of the buildings proposed ranges from nine to fourteen stories and the ground-floor retail space footprint ranges from 8,465 to 60,752 square feet.
The proposals call for 204 to 300 residential rental units, and all include a mix of market-rate and affordable units. The project is estimated to cost between $40.8 million and $69.3 million.
All five proposals would be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.
Village administrators presented basic information about the proposals last week, emphasizing that they are still in the early stages of development and could change significantly over the next few months.
"I want to stress that what you're seeing here is the first iteration of what that developer has envisioned," said Loretta Daly, village business services manager.
The first-time look at the proposals revealed some surprises.
Developer Urban R2 is working with internationally acclaimed architect Helmut Jahn, known in Chicago for designing the James R. Thompson Center at 100 W. Randolph St.
Another revelation came from Argent Group, which presented two scenarios that include a 47,523- to 60,752-square-foot, ground-level grocery store.
An unnamed source close to the Argent proposal said in a telephone interview that the company has reached out to national grocery chains, which have expressed interest in the site, but the source added that Argent would not build the space without securing a tenant.
The size of the retail space proposed by the remaining three developers is smaller, with North American Properties at 8,465 square feet, Lincoln Properties at 10,000 square feet and Urban R2 at 14,398 square feet.
Brad Friedman, executive vice president with Urban R2, said in a telephone interview that the development team envisions possibly two white tablecloth restaurants and service-oriented businesses such as FedEx or a doctor's office.
The number of rental units offered in the proposals varied by almost 100. Urban R2 would build 204 units; North American Properties, 205; Lincoln Properties, 250; and Argent Group, 300.
Friedman described the design by Jahn as a modern structure of glass and steel with inset balconies that bring in natural sunlight. He said the development team reached out to a couple of architects for the project "and Helmut was very interested."
"We thought it would be really cool to bring that critically acclaimed architect into the project and see what he came up with," Friedman said.
Representatives of North American Properties and Lincoln Properties could not be reached for comment by press time.
The unnamed source close to the Urban R2 project said the team presented the village with two options because under one scenario, the project would incorporate adjacent buildings to the south.
The source said everything in both proposals is negotiable, echoing Daly's observation that the project is still in the early stages of development.
Village Planner Craig Failor said at a public meeting on Friday that the village is using the Oak Park Master Plan, a guide for development in the community approved in 2005, as a roadmap for the project. He noted, however, that the plan was developed prior to the financial crash of 2008.
The 20-year master plan aims to bring 1,200 new housing units to the downtown area by 2015. Failor said 330 units were built within the first five years of the plan, and the proposed development at Lake and Forest would bring another 270 units.
The master plan calls for a four-story development at the Harlem and South site, but the shortest development proposed would more than double the stories.
"We feel that the pieces of the puzzle can be shifted around a bit, but as long as we're meeting the [housing unit] goals of the master plan, I think we're still achieving what the village approved back in 2005," Failor said.
Daly told those at the unveiling of the proposals that the village plans to hire a consultant to help vet the viability of the developers' proposals.
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