A Shady Deal for Oak Park?

 A rear view rendering of the proposed 1000 Lake Street building from the Albion Planned Development Application. The Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center is omitted.

A rear view rendering of the proposed 1000 Lake Street building from the Albion Planned Development Application. The Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center is omitted.

By Laurie Casey

The rumors are true: a developer is proposing to build an 18-story building on the south side of Austin Gardens, at 1000 Lake Street. In order to move forward, the builder – Albion - is asking the Oak Park Plan Commission to change the zoning on the lot, which allows only 8 stories. We need all hands on deck to understand the issues and get involved. Will you? Read more for a quick summary and 4 easy actions you can take.

What’s at stake? The developers claim the mixed-use building containing 265 luxury apartments and 9,500 square feet of retail will bring in tax revenue. Many residents and the Oak Park Park District feel the building will be extremely costly in ways we can’t fix once the project is up. They point to these problems:

  • The building will throw Austin Gardens into deep shade all winter. It will also shade the southeast corner of the park, hurting mature trees and plantings there.

  • It will cast a shadow on the rooftop solar panels of the $1 million environmental center we just built in Austin Gardens.

  • Higher winds are already whooshing down Forest Ave. due to the Vantage building. The Albion project will likely make them worse.

  • The charming, human-scale character of the downtown will be altered by yet another tall building.

Our zoning rules were established by two master plans paid for by our tax dollars. The guidelines aim to maintain the welcoming character of Lake Street as it grows into the 21st century. We need to decide whether Oak Park is a community of exclusive, luxury high-rises or one that welcomes a wide variety of human-scale households and community gathering spaces.

Here are 4 ways to get involved:

  • During your visit to the Oak Park Farmer's Market this Saturday, send a postcard to the Oak Park Board of Trustees. Look for the Austin Guards table.

  • Visit the website of the Austin Guards, a citizen group that is protecting our park: https://sites.google.com/view/austinguards/home Here you’ll find their reasons for opposing the project as well as action items you can take to join their effort.

  • Attend the 7 p.m. July 27 meeting of the Oak Park Plan Commission at Village Hall. You can plan to speak at the meeting, or simply listen to the Oak Park Park District’s cross-examination of the Albion developer’s proposal.

  • Send an e-mail to the Commission and Trustees: planning@oak-park.usand board@oak-park.us.

 Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center as seen from a similar angle to the rendering above./Eric Hausman Photographer

Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center as seen from a similar angle to the rendering above./Eric Hausman Photographer