Oak Park village board to vote on Madison apartment plan

Plan commission recommends rejecting the development

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

The proposal to build a five-story apartment building at 435 to 451 Madison St. will go to a vote at an Oak Park village board meeting Monday, Aug. 3. Applicant Michigan Avenue Real Estate Group (MAREG) has made further revisions to the building's design since its last plan commission hearing.

The developer failed to secure backing for the project from the plan commission back on March 5, due to the proposed building's mass and height.

The proposal comes with substantial zoning change requests, including an increase in density from the maximum allowed 24 living units to 42. MAREG originally requested relief for 48 units but changed it to 42 after its final plan commission meeting. MAREG has also requested an increase in height from the maximum of 50 feet to 63.

"The massing of the proposed structure is too large, too tall and too close to residential properties and a residential neighborhood to the South and East," reads the commission's report to the village board.

For these reasons, neighbors staunchly oppose the apartment complex as well and have from the beginning. In addition to its size, the proposed apartment complex's close proximity to the Gunderson Historic District also caused consternation among commissioners and neighbors.

During its first plan commission hearing on Jan. 9, MAREG was directed to make considerable changes to the building's design. When the project returned to the plan commission on March 5, MAREG received criticism from the commission and neighbors for not altering the height or size in its redesign. Instead, MAREG used what was described as "optical illusions" to make the building look smaller.

"You guys have kind of tried to dance us by putting some doodads on it, trying to make it appear to be smaller," said Jim Polaski during citizen testimony. "I'm a fat guy – that's like telling me to wear dark clothes and don't use horizontal stripes."

The building's last round of design revisions, which MAREG will present to the village board on Monday, includes a reduced number of indoor parking spots from 49 to 43. The final redesign also has a 7-foot landscape buffer in the 14-foot side yard. MAREG has also opted to make an additional contribution of $50,000 to the Oak Park Affordable Housing Fund on top of the $500,000 MAREG had already opted to pay under the inclusionary housing ordinance.


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Reader Comments

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Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: August 1st, 2020 8:18 PM

I would like to live in a village where the zoning is adhered to. No variances. It won't happen because officials like the power zoning variances gives them.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: August 1st, 2020 4:02 PM

The Madison and Oak Park intersection and nearby area is zoned commercial and retail., with no singe family units within at least half a block. The 431-55 Madison proposed development has residential single family housing on three sides, has shallow setbacks compared to residential zoning, and is 13 feet taller that anything allowed under zoning w/o a variance. It's way out of character and scale from the rest of its immediate surroundings.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: August 1st, 2020 3:01 PM

I really don't see why there is objection to this 5 story building, when nobody is objecting to the proposed 8 story building a few blocks west at Oak Park Avenue and Madison. Can someone tell me why this is?

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: August 1st, 2020 8:53 AM

Clearly the strategy in Oak Park is to avoid following the rules by offering to throw some money at the so called Affordable Housing Fund, which certain trustees just can't resist. Those funds can then be used to further increase population density in town, which actually makes it even less affordable for everyone as we have to provide even more tax payer funded services. The answer to this project is easy: NO.

Waldhorn Fafner  

Posted: July 31st, 2020 7:33 PM

It was "heard" that MAREG didn't really care about the review board, they already had the Village board. That would make sense for what was presented "different" at the second hearing from the first -- presented on green paper instead of white paper. Hey, Oak Park is close to Chicago and part of Illinois so we should already know how politics works. Also much like everywhere make an proposal so out of line that after all the business you come back with what you wanted all along which is less than the outlandish but still way beyond what the regulations allow. Question: if there are substantial changes shouldn't it go back to the planning commission? If I were on the planning commission and the board approves I would resign.

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