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The facts about our project at Lake and Forest

Opinion: Columns

March 14th, 2017 4:12 PM

A preliminary rendering of the 18-story Albion building proposal. | Provided by Albion Residential

By Jason Koehn

One View

We share Wednesday Journal's call for a "worthy debate" about the project our company, Albion Residential, has proposed at Lake and Forest. To correct misinformation and false fears about it, we offer facts to help that discussion.

Over the last several months, we have met with neighbors, businesses, community organizations, nonprofits, the Park District of Oak Park and others in meetings that had two objectives: 

1) provide facts; and 

2) gather and understand concerns, questions and ideas.

We heard about several important issues, with Austin Gardens, height and density getting the most attention.

Austin Gardens: The fear our building would "destroy" the park is incorrect. We took great care to design and position an L-shaped building to minimize additional shadows on Austin Gardens.

It's a fact that tall buildings and green spaces co-exist across the country. See Mills Tower next to Mills Park for proof in Oak Park.

In addition to conducting shadow studies, we recently commissioned an arborist who has worked previously with the park district to analyze the impact on trees, vegetation and wildlife in Austin Gardens. When that report is available and no matter what it concludes, we will release it and add it to the Planned Development application.

We want to protect Austin Gardens, which is why we asked the park district to suggest ways we can work together to enhance it and make it more accessible for neighbors and newcomers.

Austin Gardens is an asset for everyone, including potential new residents in our building. To suggest we want to "destroy" it makes no sense.

Height: We are frequently asked why we proposed a building taller than the 80-foot limit in the ordinance. Today's marketplace and development economics are the reasons we requested a height variance.

An 80-foot rental apartment building is not financially viable when land costs, building management and structured parking for residents and the adjacent 1010 Lake Street building are taken into account.

Here's another fact: our shadow studies show an 80-foot, block-shaped building would create just as much and, at certain times of the year, more shadow impact on Austin Gardens.

Density: Downtown Oak Park is booming because of its commitment to transit-oriented development. Restaurants and retailers want to come to Oak Park because of its increasing density and activity.

That's why Target and Two Brothers are coming to Oak Park, Jayne and other shops have fully leased Marion Street, and restaurants are calling us to ask about our Oak Park project. They recognize a good thing when they see it.

Finally, we have not asked the village to "accelerate" the review process so as to avoid public debate. I lived in Oak Park; members of our team were born, raised and live here; and our property management company has operated Oak Park City Apartments at Lake and Euclid for years. We understand and respect the community's commitment to an open, transparent process that encourages public participation.

We are very excited to be part of a vibrant community like Oak Park and the role our project can have in its growth. As part of that process, we welcome a fact-based "worthy debate."

Jason Koehn is president of Albion Residential.