Oak Park Arts District development moving forward

Storefronts, residential unit planned for shuttered Mexican restaurant

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Moss is growing on the sign of the La Majada Mexican restaurant in the Oak Park Arts District — the building has been closed since last April, when its owners went out of business and put the building on the market.

Now, developers are working to bring the 6,250-square-foot building at 226 Harrison St. back to life with as many as six new storefront businesses, according to Adam Friedberg, a principal of Oak Park-based Brand & Co.

Friedberg and co-developers John Schiess and Mike Streit are scheduled to appear before the Oak Park Zoning Board of Appeals on Oct. 7 to ask for five zoning variances, one of which would allow them to include a residential apartment in the structure.

Friedberg said in a telephone interview that the plan is to put a studio apartment in the building.

"The really nice thing about this building is, the way the structure is built, it could easily be divided into six storefronts and an apartment," he said, noting that the apartment unit will be located on the east side of the building.

An alternate plan includes the studio apartment and two larger storefronts.

"You could combine the spaces and have a larger user or you could easily divide it to six storefronts," he said.

Friedberg said there has been a lot of interest in the space, but residents and neighboring businesses are telling him they'd like to see another restaurant at the location.

Laura Maychruk, president of the Oak Park Arts District Business Association and owner of nearby Buzz Café, said, "It's not a surprise to me that they have multiple businesses interested in that space."

She said in a telephone interview that she and the business association have no problem with Brand & Co. including one residential unit in the building.

She said the building is "in a sad state, so they need to put in some money to get it into a rental state."

Maychruk, who also is a local real estate agent, estimated that the annual tax bill for the commercial property is around $30,000, adding, "It's pretty staggering."

She said adding the rental unit will lower the tax bill, making it more inexpensive for developers to get it on the market.

"This is the highest taxed type of property. … The way to get them to be lowered is they add the residential space to get it classified as mixed-use," she said.

Maychruk said the business association also has no problem with Brand & Co. requesting a variance from a village ordinance requiring them to have six off-street parking spaces. The commercial corridor has plenty of on-street parking for customers, she said.

Friedberg did not reveal a firm timeline for rehabbing the building but said, "We're letting the market come to us."

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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Suzanne Vestuto from Oak Park  

Posted: September 19th, 2015 8:45 PM

Exactly! The old Harrison Street Neighborhood Organization (HSNO), funded thru a grant & the VOP, had its office there, along with Peggy Miller's coffee shop/ eatery and other shops there in the late '70s - early '80s. It was the revitalization of the long strip from Austin to Elmwood - with Sue, Hugh, Carl, Janice, Tia, Karen & Peter, Charlie, Elaine, Eddie & Mark - so many residents & volunteers, leading into more galleries becoming the Arts District! Fun times! Wonderful neighbors & friends!!

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: September 18th, 2015 5:30 PM

Actually, the thing about that building is that it once WAS divided into around six storefronts.

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