Last summer, the village board directed the Oak Park Plan Commission to review changes to the development my firm, Sertus Capital Partners LLC, proposed at Lake and Forest. After several months of commission and staff work, we anticipate the trustees will take a final vote on it next Monday night.
It's our hope the board will approve the project because we are ready to commence development of a project that will strengthen Oak Park in significant ways and contribute benefits to the community for years to come.
After enduring the real estate and financial market crash, we modified the project to reflect economic realities. Our revised proposal includes 270 rental apartments, a 588-space parking garage (300 public, 288 residential/retail) to replace the existing garage, and approximately 25,000 square feet of retail space.
The development would add approximately 400 new residents to Oak Park's population, which declined 3.4 percent between 1990 and 2010, from 53,648 to 51,878. A shrinking population means shrinking tax revenues, and population below 50,000 restricts Oak Park's access to federal and state funding.
The Greater Downtown Master Plan (GDTMP), the 1990 Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Ordinance envisioned a mixed-use, "gateway" development on the site. The GDTMP calls for the development of 1,200 new multi-family residential units in downtown Oak Park; our development would add 23 percent of that goal.
In other words, the project is exactly what Oak Park said it wants at Lake and Forest.
Not only would it fulfill Oak Park's objectives, but it also would appeal to newcomers to Oak Park seeking an attractive, high-quality rental unit as a first step to putting down roots here. At the same time, the project would offer conveniently located, single-level, zero-maintenance housing for existing residents looking to downsize and stay in the community.
Some have expressed concerns about density and height. That's understandable, but it would be impossible for even several projects combined to meet the village's residential target for downtown Oak Park without the granting of zoning allowances.
In fact, it would require more than 15 acres of land to build 1,200 residential units using a strict application of existing ordinances.
Regarding the project's private parking, Village staff confirmed the conclusions of outside experts that the number of spaces in the revised proposal is sufficient, and traffic impact would be marginal.
This is because the Lake and Forest site meets the classic definition of transit-oriented development. It's located in a mature community near a major metropolitan area with excellent transit infrastructure.
It also offers an opportunity to build a "gateway" project that links Downtown Oak Park with the Avenue District, another planning objective that also would strengthen Oak Park's long-term finances.
For instance, the project would generate more than $1.3 million in property taxes and an estimated $178,000 in sales taxes from new retail stores, not to mention a building permit fee of $600,000.
There are more benefits to the project at Lake and Forest than its financial advantages, of course. We have agreed to pay for improvements at Austin Gardens, install public art at Lake and Forest, and fund improvements to the 19th Century Club building and parking lot.
Since we purchased the property at Lake and Forest, we have been a patient and prudent partner to the village in our efforts to develop the site, an approach we again followed during the recent work of the plan commission.
It's our hope that the village board agrees the revised proposal at Lake and Forest is a thoughtful response to changes in the marketplace, that the allowances requested are reasonable and consistent with the village's plans, and that Oak Park is ready to work with us to fulfill its vision for Lake and Forest.
Michael Glazier is managing director, Sertus Capital Partners, LLC.
Answer Book 2019
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