UPDATED: How High do You Want Your Downtown Buildings?
Aldermen and neighbors get the word out about what could be a precedent-setting decision.
A controversial building request is coming before the Elmhurst Zoning and Planning Commission for a hearing at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 24.
Arco Murray/Addison Corridor LLC is asking the city for permission to build a six-story structure at 135-149 N. Addison St. that will house retail and office space, as well as parking.
Part of the controversy lies in the fact that the city's zoning code only permits four-story structures in the downtown area, and many, including some aldermen, believe six stories would be an eyesore and set a precedent for other buildings downtown. Residents on nearby Larch Avenue are sending out emails and posting notices on doors encouraging as many people to show up at the public hearing as possible.
Also controversial is the method by which the developer has been doing business with the city, aldermen say. First Ward Aldermen Diane Gutenkauf sent out a press release earlier this month stating she voted against a contract extension between the city and Arco Murray/Addison LLC because the "project has been discussed behind closed doors since Day 1, and I cannot support the approval of details that have been kept from the public eye."
Gutenkauf, who officially kicked off her campaign for Elmhurst mayor last month, went on to say that residents have a right to know how the council is spending their money.
First Ward Alderman Paula Pezza, who has decided not to run for re-election in April, has echoed Gutenkauf's comments about a lack of transparency. She posted on her Facebook page Dec. 29:
"Don't say you didn't know after it's been built with YOUR TAX DOLLARS!"
She encouraged everyone to show up at Thursday's public hearing.
"If you care about how our lovely downtown looks and feels, this is your chance to speak up. If you don't show, it is assumed by many that you approve of the proposal."
Discussion about the height of the structure began more than a year ago with Arco Murray, which also built the parking deck on Larch Avenue in 2010.
The city purchased the property for $4.5 million, and three buildings were torn down on the site, including the former Athar Restaurant. Phase I design work began on the property last summer. Cost for utility relocation for ComEd and AT&T has been about $170,000, and Comcast has yet to provide its utility relocation cost.
The developer is proposing a 68-foot structure; current code allows for 45 feet. Design costs for the taller structure are estimated at $428,000, and for the shorter structure, about $365,000, according to a memo from the Public Works and Buildings Committee to the City Council dated June 25.
Thursday's public hearing, which will be held at City Hall, is the first step toward approval. The matter will then go before the city's Development, Planning and Zoning Committee, then to the full City Council for a vote.