Golub pulls plans for 28-story high-rise

Decision comes months after Oak Park mayor and board voice opposition

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The developer of a controversial proposal to build a 28-story luxury apartment building half a block from Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple has announced that they are withdrawing their plan.

Golub & Co., which announced last year the plans to build the new high-rise at 835 Lake St., said in a letter to Oak Park trustees and others that the company has "elected to terminate our efforts to redevelop" the site.

"We continue to believe this location is an outstanding opportunity for developing a high-quality, architecturally appropriate multi-family building that could contribute to the urban fabric of the community," Golub vice president Michael Glazier said in the email.

Glazier said that feedback from the Unity Temple community and others in Oak Park caused the company to conclude "there is not sufficient support for our plans at this time."

"Having previously developed the Vantage project, we remain bullish on the prospects for continued demand in Oak Park for high-quality, multi-family housing that contributes to the community's unique character and economic growth," Glazier said in the email. "We look forward to working on other potential opportunities in Oak Park and engaging with the community in the near future."

Neither Glazier nor Golub principal Lee Golub could be immediately reached for comment.

Heidi Ruehle-May, executive director of the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation, said in a telephone interview that Golub representatives attempted to work with various stakeholders at Unity Temple to rework their proposal for the high-rise.

"It didn't turn out the way they wanted, but the process went positively," she said.

Ruehle-May said she hopes that any future proposal takes into consideration the safety and experience of those at Unity Temple and stays within the context and proportion of the neighborhood.

The proposed 299-foot building was controversial not just because of its proximity to Unity Temple but because of the shadow the statue would cast over the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy released a statement, following the announcement, noting that the tower would have cast a shadow over the sanctuary and adjacent Unity House.

"Not only did our serious concerns of how light, shadows and context would affect the integrity of the building and the experience within the space, but there is high probability that this or any development above the current underlying zoning would negatively affect the urban scale and historic streetscape of this block of Lake Street," the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy statement noted.

The group recently nominated the building as a World Heritage site.

The announcement comes nearly four months after Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb and the board of trustees voiced their opposition to the project.

"I do not envision, nor do I support, a 28-story building on this site," Abu-Taleb told Wednesday Journal in early December. "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."

Abu-Taleb said in a recent interview, "I wish we were able to find a way to say yes."

He said the result of Golub walking away is a lost investment of $125 million in Oak Park "with zero tax-dollar subsidy."

"We also lost the potential of creation of over 400 full-time construction jobs; we also lost the opportunity of welcoming 500 new residents to the village; and when we say no to such a development, we also have lost the potential of creating 25 units of affordable housing or $2.5 million in lieu of (in-building units)," he said.


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Rachel Benoit from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2019 12:58 PM

Dan Lauber, your points are well-taken. In contrast to the downtown high rises, I think the design and scale of District House was well done, if not exactly Prairie or Mission style.

Christine Vernon  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 9:13 PM

Dan, we were so fortunate to have you working in Oak Park as Senior Planner at one time and I wish it were still true that you were here. Madison Street looks like it needs a Marshall Plan to bring it back to life. The systematic dismantlement of it over the years, the neglect of code enforcement and inspections over the years. Mr. Garcia, don't worry about the vacant land of Golubs, Oak Park has created many spaces like that on Madison, but yes, worry about the lost revenue from bad decision-making by the Village Board who don't demand excellence in architecture and design for their constituents to keep alive the valuable and unique legacy we have inherited here in OP that Mr. Lauber describes so well.

Mary Pikul  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 6:49 PM

To Dan: Exactly.

Alex Garcia  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 5:59 PM

For those who are cheering Golub's exit, consider for a single moment that the site will probably remain fallow for the foreseeable future; no other plans exist for investment on the site; and this comes at a time when Oak Park's downtown Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue corridors appear to be in the midst of commercial decline, with vacancies abounding. So, sure, take a moment to pat yourselves on the back, but you should come around to the stark reality facing Oak Park sooner or later.

Jim Kelly  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 5:57 PM

Dan, Great points, all! To add, I would also be in favor of high rises with a design stunning enough become a meaningful contribution to modern architecture.

Ellen Edwards  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 5:05 PM

Dan Lauber, you said it perfectly.

Dan Lauber  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 4:41 PM

Writing as a professional city planner and former Senior Planner for Oak Park, not only was the 299-foot Golub building quite inappropriate for the site, it's yet another example of new construction that does not respect the rich architectural heritage of Oak Park (and River Forest). I remain astounded at how the village board has been so willing to approve the largely incompatible architecture of these new high rises (and I'm not against high rises) when it has the leverage to require more compatible and excellent architecture (namely when a developer wants higher density than permitted as of right). We have the greatest and most intense collection on earth of buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and his disciples -- why not seek to get major new construction to be compatible with Prairie and Mission style building? Why not build upon that rich heritage? There are plenty of conventional, boring and downright ugly high density buildings around. Why let developers spread that gunk into beautiful Oak Park?

Leonard Grossman  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 4:06 PM

It's nice to see good news for a change.

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