Preservation Commission hasn't decided on OP/South buildings

Opinion

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Over the past few months, there have been several articles regarding a proposed development project at the southeast corner of Oak Park Avenue and South Boulevard. The proposed development includes as many as four buildings, three of which are considered contributing structures in the Ridgeland/Oak Park Historic District. The articles have generated public interest and concern regarding the fate of the buildings. Because the buildings are in the historic district, any proposed redevelopment that includes full or partial demolition must obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) from the Village of Oak Park's Historic Preservation Commission. The HPC has not issued the required approval.

To date, only the HPC's Architectural Review Committee has reviewed the project, at two meetings. This committee works directly with applicants to discuss their projects in a more informal setting and provide advice on how projects can meet the Architectural Review Guidelines. So far, the committee has not endorsed the project or recommended that it be approved by the full commission. The proposal has changed several times and will likely change more, as the committee has expressed various concerns with the proposal and the full commission has not yet reviewed it. By village ordinance, our review will be based on the review guidelines and geared towards protecting the historic character of the buildings and district, as visible from the street.

While wholesale demolition of contributing buildings in historic districts is rarely approved by the HPC, additions that are sensitive to the historic character are allowed. It should be noted that the HPC has no authority over any interior alterations or building use. Although the applicant has publicly stated that he intends to only preserve the facades, the proposals so far have shown new additions set back somewhat from the street. How far such additions are set back and their impact on the buildings' historic character will continue to be important factors to the HPC in future reviews of this project.

Douglas E. Gilbert
Chair, Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission

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