Downtown Oak Park is growing up. As the 21-story building at Lake Street and Forest Avenue climbs upward past its podium levels, it was confirmed this month that another building standing in at 20 stories is likely coming to the Lake Street corridor. The newest proposal would be constructed on a large surface parking lot straddling the block from Lake Street to North Boulevard, directly next to the Metra and CTA stations.
While the concept plan is new, this development proposal has been around for seven years, with progress stalled from the recession and a change in the development team. Jupiter Realty, who is quite active in downtown Chicago and is currently proposing a new 444 unit project in southern Streeterville, was partnered with Clark Street Development for the project which originally conceived of an 11-story building next to the train stations and a six-story building fronting lake street. The parking garage for the entire project would be tucked into the 11-story building, which would be constructed as residential units on top of the garage, sprawling across the it to maintain a somewhat low profile for an otherwise sizable building.
While the scope of building a mixed-use residential and retail project with substantial parking component remains the same, the bulk has shifted to placing much of the residential space in taller, narrower building with an offset parking podium on the south end of the block. This building would rise to 20 floors while the Lake Street building to the north would lose one floor. Density increases slightly from 248 apartments approved originally to 271 units now currently planned, while retail space shrank slightly by approximately 1,000 square feet. The parking garage will contain 428 spaces.
While the Village of Oak Park endorsed the plan, patience is running out for the project. Hard deadlines were given for this project to advance, otherwise the village will seek another development team to fill the site, the land of which is being provided by the village as well as $7 million in public assistance. As such, the contingencies of the preliminary approval state that the Plan Commission must review the plan by August 3rd and site preparations for construction must be underway by November 3rd in order to honor the revised development agreement.
Oak Park is no stranger to a public-private partnerships as the Lake and Forest project now underway was put together in a similar fashion. The site at Lake and Forest was mostly occupied with a municipal parking garage which had reached the end of its design life and was costing ever more money to maintain. This project plan includes a new a garage for the village in addition to a large boost in annual tax revenue and additional residents further stimulating a healthy downtown business district. It was those public benefits which sold the village board on green lighting the 21-story building, which certainly generated plenty of controversy over its scale during the approval process. It should also be noted at how progressive a suburb such as Oak Park is in promoting and investing in high-rise transit-oriented development while many Chicago community groups are effective in blocking such development, despite such transit rich neighborhoods having a traditionally denser urban context.