Oak Park Mayor: 28 stories is too tall

Five Oak Park village trustees agree proposed Lake St. building is too tall, dense

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Plans for a 28-story luxury apartment building on Lake Street could be in trouble, following a letter to the editor Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb released to Wednesday Journal this afternoon. In the letter Abu-Taleb says he believes the structure, located less than a half a block from Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple, is too tall.

The proposal by Golub & Company would construct the 299-foot building at 835 Lake St., where a U.S. Bank drive-thru is currently located.

Golub has not yet submitted an application for the project to the Village of Oak Park, but it did hold a public meeting at the 19th Century Club in late November to present the proposal to Oak Parkers.

Abu-Taleb said in his letter that Unity Temple is "one of the crown jewels of the community" and that any development on the site of the U.S. Bank building "addresses the concerns of this monument."

He added that it must be acknowledged that "the bank drive-thru is not the highest and best use of that property."

"I do not envision, nor do I support, a 28-story building on this site," Abu-Taleb wrote. "I have, therefore, asked Golub to revisit its plans and explore other options that would not place Oak Park's tallest building in this location."

Jim Prescott, a spokesman for Golub, issued a statement late Wednesday saying "Golub & Company appreciates Mayor Abu-Taleb's comments and shares his interest in developing a transit-oriented project at 835 Lake St. that is sensitive to neighbors and responds to strong demand for additional rental apartments in Oak Park. We will continue to solicit feedback about preliminary plans for a development that makes sense for this site and Oak Park, which is why we initiated ongoing communication with neighbors like Unity Temple."

Abu-Taleb said in a telephone interview that he has asked Golub to "go back to the drawing board" on the project and come back with something better.

Much of the controversy centers on the shadow the building will cast not just over Unity Temple, considered a masterpiece by the famed Oak Park architect, but over nearby Scoville Park.

"I'd like to see us get to a place where Golub, which is a very credible developer, can get to a place with Unity Temple where they can be neighbors," he tells Wednesday Journal.

Abu-Taleb added that he hopes Oak Parkers and Golub can have a rational conversation about the proposed development.

"I know this is election season and I just hope we don't use fear to divide us and appeal to the worst in us," he said. "I hope we use common sense and facts and rational thinking and behavior that we can all benefit from."

The mayor appears to have support from the five of the six remaining members of the board. Trustee Andrea Button could not immediately be reached for comment, but the other five board members also voiced their opposition to the height and density of the proposed building.

"I'm supportive of this letter," Trustee Bob Tucker said in a telephone interview. "I think that like any proposal that comes before the board for development, a proposal needs to be sensitive not only to the Oak Park community but also to the surrounding buildings."

He called Unity Temple "Oak Park's architectural treasure and one of the greatest architectural treasures of the world" adding that 28 stories is "too tall."

Trustee James Taglia echoed Abu-Taleb's comment that the height is "much too tall" adding that it also is too dense.

"People say, and I've heard this discussion, that they'd like to see something of the density of District House (a 28-unit, five-story luxury condo development finished earlier this year at 708 Lake St.)," Taglia said in a telephone interview.

Trustee Simone Boutet said she is "very glad this is (Abu-Taleb's) position."

"I'm very glad he's respecting the architecture of Unity Temple and surrounding buildings that are also historically interesting," she said in a telephone interview.

The building has been positioned as a transit-oriented development because of its proximity to the Metra and CTA trains, a point that Boutet said she supports. "But we should be doing it in moderation, so that the buildings are appropriate in the context of their surroundings," she said.

Trustee Deno Andrews said the height of the building is a concern "but my biggest consideration is the impact on Unity Temple."

"I consider Unity Temple to be the primary stakeholder in what gets built next to them," he said in a telephone interview. "A blessing from Unity Temple would go a long way toward getting my support."

Trustee Dan Moroney agreed that the proposed building was "just too dense for that plot of land."

He said in a telephone interview that he was not willing to put his name on something that damages an "inherent attribute" of the village. Moroney added that the height of the building, its proximity to Lake Street and to Unity Temple are all of concern to him.

"I think with a little compromise from all parties involved there could be a solution that satisfies the developer, Oak Park residents and the architectural integrity that reasonable minds can get behind," he said.


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Reader Comments

11 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Dion Ewald  

Posted: December 11th, 2018 8:53 AM

Abu-Taleb is in that now too common position of politicians. He is doing the right thing only in reaction to public outrage. Vote this clown out of town!

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: December 10th, 2018 7:27 AM

My God, that design is ugly. Who are the architects for this predatory company? As for a third term for AA-T - could we get someone in who puts Village residents and the future of our community ahead of cash? Da Mayor is a one man wrecking crew.

Robert Milstein from OakPark  

Posted: December 6th, 2018 2:34 PM

President Abu Taleb knows full well his third term is not happening if that building goes up. However, do not let his actions fool you. He will look at 20 stories as acceptable. Then when the building is going up he will explain how he got Golub to reduce the height. Perhaps Golub said 28 to get 23? Developers punt ; Villages catch.

Josh Hasson  

Posted: December 6th, 2018 1:48 PM

They say no to this but the Madison Street road diet makes sense to them??

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: December 5th, 2018 11:02 PM

As Mae West said of a standoffish male , "Aw...you can be had."

Neal Buer  

Posted: December 5th, 2018 8:39 PM

How about no more than 8?

Bob Larson from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2018 8:31 PM

I'd reduce the height of the building to 20 stories and knock down the funky building to the west and include that property in the development.

Adrian Ayres Fisher  

Posted: December 5th, 2018 7:57 PM

Good news. It would be nice if a broad range of village residents would now be asked for their input on how to best develop the site. Hold a charette to pull together some ideas and then invite developers to hear them. We'd see who would want to do something that would add to our community life and fit into the context Unity Temple creates. This would also go a ways towards resolving tensions about who controls development in OP.

Steve Kelley  

Posted: December 5th, 2018 7:03 PM

Good decision.

Bob Pawlowski  

Posted: December 5th, 2018 6:49 PM

Sounds like there's job security worry in those quotes. The village could use a good cleaning when it comes to the powers that be.

Neal Buer  

Posted: December 5th, 2018 5:37 PM

Thank you. The current use of the property is certainly not the highest and best use. It will be developed, hopefully with something that is more appropriate for the site.

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