Comcast Project Gets OK

Project passes Oak Park Plan Commission, Village Board to begin discussions soon.

The fate of a controversial affordable housing project for the Comcast building is now in the hands of Oak Park trustees.

After seven meetings and hours of information gathering and deliberating, the Plan Commission by a 6-1 vote recommended approval of the project, with its report laying out why trustees should grant a special use permit to let the 51-unit project proceed. 

The tally was nearly the same as one taken on when commissioners directed their attorney to draft the report, with a positive recommendation and that the developer must meet.

Gary Belenke, as he did two weeks ago, voted against recommending the project. Commissioners Mark Benson, who also voted against the project earlier this month, and Deborah Fausch were absent.

In tweaking the report, called the findings of fact, commissioners included two new requirements with which the Interfaith Housing Development Corp. and its partner the  must comply. 

One calls for the addition of a couple of trees to screen the building from the neighbors, installation of a wooden fence and removal of bushes on property abutting the project.  

The second would allow trustees to give 30-days notice to Interfaith that it would revoke the special use permit if the developer failed to meet one or more of the conditions.

Deliberations by the Oak Park Village Board are expected to begin May 16.

Proponents of the project were elated. Perry Vietti, Interfaith’s chief of operations, was “pleased and relieved” this phase had concluded.

Joni Strand, an opponent who questioned the developers during earlier public testimony, was uncertain what she would do next.

“There was quite a bit of information that was inadequately presented in the process," she said. 

The commission whether Interfaith should be allowed to have a slightly taller building (by 5 feet), fewer parking spaces (32 instead of 73) and more units (51 instead of the allowed 40) than are allowed by current standards.

The structure, just west of the intersection of Oak Park Avenue and Madison Street, has been vacant for about two years. Interfaith wants to convert the building at 820-832 Madison St. into an L-shaped, environmentally friendly apartment building with 5,200 square feet of retail space on the first floor and 51 single-family units on the second through fourth floors. 

Rent will be about $700 monthly. People 18 and older who earn at or below $26,300 annually — the area median income, according to the IHDC —would qualify to live there.

The tenant profile was one of the myriad of issues neighbors brought up during the hearings. that low-income residents would court problems. Others said the project would violate long-standing policies to achieve diversity.  

But said the project would carry out the best tradition of furthering social justice. The executive director of the Rob Breymaier, said the project and would attract a racially diverse population.

Catholic Charities will provide social services for the residents.

If the project is approved, construction is slated to start in late 2011 or early 2012 with completion in late 2012.

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