JUN 6, 2017
Robinson's Ribs location could become 21 townhouses
By Timothy Inklebarger
Madison Street could be getting 21 new townhouses at the site of the former Robinson's Ribs and District 97 school headquarters, following the Oak Park village board decision Monday to pick Lexington Homes as the preferred developer of the property.
The board voted to accept the recommendation of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation (OPEDC), a public-private organization hired by the village to attract business development to Oak Park, to pick Lexington over six other proposals.
The townhouses would be located on two parcels currently owned by the village government. The combined site is 42,000 square feet. One parcel, 970 Madison St., served until last year as the D97 administration building. The second parcel, 934-936 Madison St., was the longtime home of Robinson's Ribs. That iconic restaurant has since relocated one block east on Madison St.
Two trustees – Simone Boutet and Dan Moroney – voted against the recommendation, both arguing that they wanted to see more architectural detail on the proposal before moving forward with a preferred developer.
Moroney, a local real estate developer, noted that the proposal did not include renderings of the townhouses and a slideshow by OPEDC merely included renderings of other townhouses Lexington has built.
"I'm fine with the use and the scale of construction, but the architecture is very important to me," he said. "For me to recommend this plan, I really want to have a good concept of what it would look like."
Moroney added that a "copy and paste" of images of other properties Lexington has built "is not good enough." Moroney said he'd rather table the proposal until a rendering is available.
Lexington has hired the Chicago-based architectural firm of Pappageorge Haymes as the design team.
Multiple other trustees and Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb emphasized to the developers that the village wants distinctive architecture and not cookie-cutter townhomes.
Boutet said the village should also give closer consideration to the proposal by Paragon Real Estate to build an independent senior housing facility with 74 units.
OPEDC Executive Director John Lynch said the Paragon proposal "had its merits" but ultimately was rejected by the OPEDC board because at six stories "it might be slightly dense for the neighborhood."
Lynch added that the senior housing could be a burden on the village because of a potential increased need for "emergency services." However Lynch said that Paragon had expressed interest in looking at other possible development sites in Oak Park for a senior housing project.
Boutet said the Robinson property's proximity to Rush Oak Park Hospital seems an opportunity to locate seniors near necessary health services to create a "continuity of services for that region." Rush Oak Park Hospital has just begun construction of a new $25 million emergency room that will face Madison Street.
Trustee Jim Taglia, a former trustee of Oak Park Township, agreed that the idea of senior housing for the site "needs to be studied a little bit more," adding that the township studied the topic of the need for senior housing over the last few years and could provide valuable input on the proposal.
Under the Lexington proposal, the development company would purchase the property for just over $1 million, the same price proposed by Paragon. The five other developers that responded to the request for proposals include: Aetna Development Corporation to purchase the property for $900,000 to build an auto parts store; Clark Street Real Estate to pay $825,000 and build a grocery store; GW Properties to pay $850,00 and build a commercial and retail/office building; Hammersley Architects to build a public space, residential and business incubator (no suggested purchase price); and Keystone Ventures to pay $1 million and build multi-tenant retail.
The board's approval of Lexington Homes as the preferred developer is the first step in the process of approving a redevelopment agreement and planned development, which will be reviewed by the village's Plan Commission, a citizen advisory commission, and an independent architect hired by the village – the village has hired architect Floyd D. Anderson of architecture firm Lohan Anderson. Final approval will rest with the village board.
"Everyone at Lexington made this transition as smooth as possible."
- Karena Moulton