Oak Park Plan Commission issues findings on Albion, Rush

Commission rejects high-rise proposal, approves emergency room

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park Plan Commission, which deliberates on large-scale developments in the village, has released its "findings of fact" on two proposals, rejecting a controversial high-rise and approving construction of a new emergency department.

Earlier this month, the Plan Commission voted unanimously in favor of Rush Oak Park Hospital's plan to build a new emergency department near the corner of Harlem and Madison. But the commission split on the proposal by Albion Residential to build an 18-story luxury apartment building at the corner of Lake Street and Forest Avenue, rejecting the plan in a 5-4 vote.

The commission's findings of fact, which now heads to the Oak Park Board of Trustees for consideration, notes that the controversial Albion proposal "did not complement the character of the surrounding neighborhood due to the proposed structure's height on the north side, including that the scale of the north wing of the building is incompatible with Austin Gardens to the north."

Much of the debate over the proposed building, which would take the place of a vacant two-story building that now occupies the parcel of land, has centered around the impact the structure would have on the ecosystem and aesthetics of the park. 

Albion could have built an eight-story structure on the site "by right," i.e. within the zoning code, but they requested a height allowance from the village zoning ordinance to go 10 stories taller. They also requested allowances from other parts of the zoning code such as the number of parking spaces required and how far the building is setback from the sidewalks.

Albion argued that the extra height is needed to make the project financially feasible, but the findings of fact noted "the applicant's claim that the density of the project could not be reduced was not proven by the applicant with a pro forma, financial projections or data."

The public and members of the commission expressed concern that the height of the building would adversely impact the area — particularly the adjacent park — with increased winds, shadows and noise.

 The report also notes that "concerns were expressed about adding more density to an area where two multiple-unit residential developments have been approved but not completed in addition to those already established in the immediate vicinity by the Vantage, Oak Park Apartments and 100 Forest Place developments. 

"Some concerns were also raised that the project does not include any affordable housing," the report continued. 

Others stated during the commission hearings that the development could negatively impact the 48 annual outdoor performances held in Austin Gardens by Festival Theatre.

The proposal now heads to the full board for consideration, but Albion has to receive a super-majority vote of 5-2 on that panel to gain approval. 

If Albion fails to gain the requisite votes from the Board of Trustees, they must wait two years before resubmitting the proposal. To resubmit before the end of the two-year waiting period, the company must offer a substantially different plan, but what constitutes a substantially different proposal is not detailed.

The Plan Commission also released its findings of fact for construction of a 55,000-square-foot emergency department by Rush Oak Park Hospital, stipulating that the hospital conduct traffic studies of the area nine months and then again three years after the emergency department building is completed "to determine the long-term impacts of the traffic and parking," among other traffic improvements in the area.

That proposal also now heads to the Oak Park Board of Trustees for consideration.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Brian Souders  

Posted: September 28th, 2017 8:15 AM

More high rises in Oak Park!

Ryan McCarthy from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2017 5:26 PM

No more high-rises in OP!

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: September 26th, 2017 9:31 PM

Albion isn't a building. Its hundreds of haircuts and styles each month for the local barbers in DTOP. Thousands of incremental extra movie tickets at the Lake. Thousands of meals sold at local restaurants. Now instead, it will be two years of waiting while we get to look at a dead building as it deteriorates even more.

Laura K. Stamp  

Posted: September 26th, 2017 9:25 PM

There's still time to contact the Trustees to make your voice heard about this issue. Unfortunately, the village attorney has recommended that they not meet individually with the folks who elected them, but they still read emails (board@oak-park.us). Also, show up to the meeting on October 2. You have 3 minutes to speak your piece during public comments if you sign up, or you can show support to those who do speak. Almost 4000 people have signed a petition against this development. No other development has experienced this level of opposition; the Trustees need to listen to their constituents.

Leonard Grossman  

Posted: September 26th, 2017 6:16 PM

Thank you. It seems the Plan Commission's recommendation regarding Albion is well supported by its findings.

Anne Rooney from Oak Park  

Posted: September 26th, 2017 5:55 PM

I am so pleased to read this decision. Thank you, Oak Park Plan Commission. Austin Gardens is a community treasure and deserves to be protected for the enjoyment of all citizens, as well as for those who enjoy the summer outdoor season of Oak Park Festival Theatre.

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