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Aldermen Want Zoning Commissioners to Take Another Look at Six Stories Downtown

Former alderman to City Council: "Don't be afraid of six stories. It's a number."

Elmhurst aldermen are sending a proposal for a six-story structure at 135-149 Addison Avenue back to Elmhurst's Planning and Zoning Commission for consideration.

Current zoning downtown allows four stories. In June, the Zoning Commission rejected a proposal from Addison Corridor LLC for a six-story structure on the property that would have included parking, office space and retail; the new plan omits the office space. Addison LLC still is the developer under contract, but this time it is letting the city take the lead on what the structure will be.

By show of hands, Aldermen Diane Gutenkauf, Marti Deuter, Michael Bram and Chris Healy did not favor advancing the issue to the Zoning Commission. Healy said he still was undecided on six stories, the other three were unequivocally opposed.

Debate between residents and city officials on the height of this property has been contentious for years. The project has been in the planning stages since 2009, when the original agreement for a four-story parking garage was signed with Addison LLC.

Of the residents who spoke Monday, most were opposed to six stories. Steve de la Rosa, representing Citizens Advocacy Center, urged the council to "heed the advice of the Zoning Commission, which was to do some planning for the area prior to moving forward."

Tamara Brenner outlined the genesis of the six-story proposal: It first appeared publicly in December 2010, she said. In 2011 aldermen unsuccessfully attempted to change the zoning code by text amendment. In June, the plan didn't pass muster with the Zoning Commission, and "two weeks ago, lo and behold, we're looking at six stories again," Brenner said.

"There is private information that is informing council (members') thoughts," she said, adding the public should know what that information is.

John Dulles accused aldermen of doing the bidding of wealthy businessmen in town who want to develop additional six-story properties for profit "on the backs of taxpayers."

"This is corruption on a major level," said Dulles, whose dry cleaning business is across the street from the proposed development. "We're turning into another Chicago here."

Katie Muno, who lives near the proposed project, said the city doesn't need six floors of parking.

"It's not part of the comprehensive plan, our own codes don't support it, the Zoning Commission rejected it, and people want to see proof that even a four-story garage (is needed)," Muno said.

Aldermen in Favor …

But Michael Regan, who served as Elmhurst 1st Ward alderman from 2001 to 2009, told the council, "Don't be afraid of six stories. It's a number."

"If you build it, they will come," he said. "If you want to attract quantity and quality, build it the right size the first time. Don't short-change the citizens. Get it right."

Alderman Norman Leader said some people regard change "as a disease to be avoided at all costs."

"It's … about the viability of the downtown, the value of our homes and the continued existence of our city as a viable place to live," he said. "When we reach the point that no additional parking is needed, or we need less for our core downtown, then that is the day that grass will grow in the streets, and the value of your homes will die with the downtown."

Mayor Steve Morley said the city agreed five years ago more parking is needed, and any new development on the west side of Addison will further increase the need.

Alderman Mark Mulliner said the need may even be "significantly" greater than what's proposed, and Alderman Scott Levin said Addison is "desolate."

"We have not heard from many residents outside the 1st Ward," Levin said. "I appreciate what they are saying, but it's not just a 1st Ward garage."

Aldermen also cited cost as a reason to build six stories.

A four-story structure is estimated to cost $10.5 million to $11.5 million, Assistant City Manager Mike Kopp said. Two additional levels will add about $2.7 million, about a 20 percent increase. The Adelaide parking deck was built with 211 parking spaces in 1992 for $1.92 million. The city added 98 spaces in 2001 at a cost of $1.91 million, or almost 100 percent of the original cost. The Schiller deck, built in 1991, also was added onto in 2003.

"Adelaide cost us 100 percent more to get more parking," Alderman Pat Wagner said. "Six stories is getting it right (from the beginning)."

Aldermen Opposed …

But Alderman Marti Deuter pointed out that the Schiller and Adelaide decks were added onto nine and 12 years after they were built.

"I don't think it's good practice to ask today's taxpayers to foot the bill for something that may or may not happen in the future," she said. "We don't have the resources to meet non-priority needs."

Deuter said data has not been presented to justify six stories. She said hundreds of residents signed petitions against it, the structure is inconsistent with the vision for the downtown established in the 2009 comprehensive plan, and the city is setting itself up "for contentious public hearings with an unknown outcome."

Alderman Diane Gutenkauf quoted from Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's "Parking Strategies to Support Livable Communities." She said a lot of research is available on how communities use parking to enhance their downtown, but aldermen haven't read it.

"We really are lacking a lot of solid information that would help us make a solid, researched-backed decision," she said.

Third Ward Alderman Michael Bram said four levels of parking was sufficient when Addison LLC was planning its six-story office and retail mix. He also pointed out that none of the proposals for the development of the other big project downtown, Hahn Street, meet city code.

"Are supporters saying their vision is for every parcel to be above four stories? What is our vision here? The comprehensive plan … doesn't state that our vision is six stories," he said.

Next Steps

City staff will recommend a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission, Morley said. That doesn't mean the city has committed to six stories yet, but it keeps the process moving forward, he said.

Aldermen also are requesting a waiver of a loading dock requirement. Bram and Gutenkauf want a loading dock to keep delivery trucks from backing up traffic on Addison. Gutenkauf said she was "stunned" 12 of her colleagues didn't agree with her.

"I'm flabbergasted," she said. "The main street you all want to develop, Addison, that's where you (want loading)? That would be a substantial fail. You don't want to do it because the back of the building is more important than the front? This is nuts."

Jim Court September 18, 2013 at 07:51 AM
Build six stories.
NancyC September 18, 2013 at 07:58 AM
Don't. Build a teen center.
Doremus Jessup September 18, 2013 at 08:56 AM
"Aldermen also cited cost as a reason to build six stories. A four-story structure is estimated to cost $10.5 million to $11.5 million, Assistant City Manager Mike Kopp said. Two additional levels will add about $2.7 million, about a 20 percent increase. The Adelaide parking deck was built with 211 parking spaces in 1992 for $1.92 million. The city added 98 spaces in 2001 at a cost of $1.91 million, or almost 100 percent of the original cost. The Schiller deck, built in 1991, also was added onto in 2003. "Adelaide cost us 100 percent more to get more parking," Alderman Pat Wagner said. "Six stories is getting it right (from the beginning)." So Alderman Wagner and Assistant City Manager Mike Kopp throw out this 100 percent more number, did they adjust for inflation between 1992 and 2001, I don't think so, that would not fit with their narrative. My opinion is that they are being disingenuous or they are bad at math, either way I would not want them representing/working for Elmhurst. Also, "Alderman Norman Leader said some people regard change "as a disease to be avoided at all costs." Seems to me a 4 story parking garage is agreed to by just about everybody where a 4 story parking garage did not exist, that sounds like change to me but apparently if it doesn't fit the exact change Mr. Leader wants you must be against all change. Obviously the reality is a little different. Elmhurst residents please be careful with these elections, I hope you are seeing what you get. Do you really think the 6 story crowd is listening to the residents,city code, and zoning commission, or do they have other influences?
Lauren Pittelli September 18, 2013 at 09:09 AM
I am appalled that we are even discussing a 6 story parking garage. Actually I am opposed to putting any garage in this location, mainly because they are unattractive. it would be much better to put any needed garages on the surrounding blocks, rather than exactly in the middle of what is supposed to be our shopping and entertainment area. People need a reason to stop in the center of town. Why not work on a music venue or jazz club? If we have to have a garage at the location, 4 stories is all ready twice the height of the surrounding buildings.... putting something 6 stories in will stick out like a sore thumb. The garage on the corner of Larch and 1st is unattractive - do we want that, only 35 ft taller, in the middle of downtown?
Mike T. McAuley September 18, 2013 at 12:26 PM
Since there is going to be new parking spaces the lot across the street eil no longer be needed and they Can build retail and office space over there and only need four floors for parking.
Mike T. McAuley September 18, 2013 at 12:28 PM
Since there is going to be new parking spaces the lot across the street eil no longer be needed and they Can build retail and office space over there and only need four floors for parking.
BG September 18, 2013 at 05:39 PM
If you think, that traffic is bad, south of North Ave, on York, just wait when that new garage is built. Concentrate on gutting out old Elmhurst Hospital, and make it into a new Park District Center for our kids. Look at the Oak Brook Park District Center, off Jorie Blvd., that's what Elmhurst needs to accommodate families. In addition, change the old buildings, from the 70's, downtown...
BG September 18, 2013 at 05:48 PM
The distance between North Ave., and 3rd to 2nd, will cause traffic congestion. Hey politicians, listen to Elmhurst Citizens, before making, decisions. Concentrate on making sidewalks off Van Auken, in Elmhurst, protect our kids...
dwilbur September 18, 2013 at 06:28 PM
The issue I have with this is that apparently our City believes they have $2.7M to throw around like it's pocket change. The additional two stories will cost only $2.7M? It may cost us more if we choose to add on later, so we should spend the $2.7M now? This theory works well when I'm shopping at Jewel for meat on sale (stock up, buy extra for the future when it's cheaper).....but that's my own money I'm spending. And, if I needed that money for something else, I wouldn't stock up on something on sale. How about spending $2.7M on the flooding issue? In August of 2009, a consultant's investigation revealed that the "section of storm sewer between Avon Road and Pine Street is undersized for the likely original 5 to 10-year design storm." Indeed. There have been 3 massive floods in this neighborhood since September 13, 2008 (and three additional smaller floods). The pipe is too small and in 2009, the consultant hired by the City suggested the pipe be replaced at a cost of $443,000. We were told the City did not have that kind of money to spend. An alderman suggested if we wanted to pool our money together and pay for the fix ourselves, that could be an option to explore. This is the City's storm sewer pipe. Too small. At the October 26, 2009 Public Works Committee meeting, "Chairman Kennedy directed staff to put this project on a list for future budget consideration." It's been almost 4 years. Since then, the City has approved dozens of permits for new houses to dump more water into that same storm sewer pipe. Where is that water supposed to go? Over the summer, the City also approved spending money to support residents putting in rear yard drains. Where is that water supposed to go? If the City has money to throw around for 2 additional levels of parking and an underpass for the Prairie Path under York Road (who in this City is asking for that??), we sure would appreciate you spending a fraction of that to fix the problem with your sewer system and not approve a single permit allowing another drop of water to directly enter the system (that second part doesn't cost a dime). Maybe the hospital could sell you the parking garage sitting vacant at the Berteau campus? I'm pretty sure it's "on sale."
Lauren Pittelli September 18, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Could anyone advise what we can do to oppose this garage? I am not sure who to write (or whether they will listen) and when there may be hearings I can attend and speak at. Perhaps we should start a petition drive to show the level of opposition? Thanks for any information or ideas you can provide.
Susan Smentek September 18, 2013 at 10:06 PM
A petition is a good idea. By the way, lots of residents emailed the city council letters opposing 6 stories and requested that the letters be read into the public record at the Committee of the Whole meeting on 9/16/13. But, the letters were not read aloud. Isn't it a little hypocritical of City council to imply that the opinions of the first ward residents who oppose 6 stories don't count, at the same time as it points to 1st Ward resident Michael Regan's support of the project? Why does Mr. Regan's opinion count more than mine, or Ms. Muno's or Ms. Bremer's, or the long list of people who sent emails to the city opposing the extra 2 stories? Perhaps he is endowed with Former Alderman Superpowers.
Todd Benson September 18, 2013 at 10:59 PM
Why do you need a loading dock for any kind of parking structure? whether 4 or 6 stories - Again, assuming that there are now no plans for office space nor more retail space on the first or above floors? Am I thinking correctly? - Also, what of this comment "any new development on the west side of Addison will further increase the need." Are there other pieces of information to share? Also, what about the plans for the former Plass building and the two buildings to it's south. Is there any thinking/planning for the doughnut parking behind Pizza Palace/Al's Hobby?? Lots more to explore, discuss and ponder. Yes growth is good, but measured growth is even better!
Karen Chadra (Editor) September 18, 2013 at 11:17 PM
Hi Todd, I can answer a couple of your questions. The plan is still for retail on the lower level of the parking garage, and aldermen have talked extensively about developing the doughnut hole, which is one of the reasons cited for not wanting a loading dock in the back of the deck. It's just way too much information to get into one story :) Here's another article that has more info, with links to about a million other stories about Addison: http://elmhurst.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/pedestrian-control-and-the-doughnut-hole
Karen Chadra (Editor) September 18, 2013 at 11:21 PM
@Lauren: Public hearings will be scheduled and you'll be able to give your opinions there. The Zoning Commission will hear everybody out - without a time limit - and will accept letters, petitions, etc. There may be more than one public hearing at the Zoning Commission meetings, but nothing has been scheduled yet.
Jim Court September 19, 2013 at 11:12 AM
After reading all of these thoughtful comments a thought occurred to me. Are we building a parking garage for York Theatre? It would be easy to conclude that. I am not saying I am right. Does anybody else have a perspective on this?
Susan Smentek September 20, 2013 at 07:57 AM
Mr. Johnson is very much in favor of 6 stories. I've hard him comment several times about it.
dwilbur September 20, 2013 at 09:53 AM
I'm not opposed to the garage, just the need for 6 stories. This is one of many projects the City is working on right now, not to mention all of the projects being ignored. I have lived near the downtown area for 17 years, shop their several times a week and dine in restaurants probably once a week. I can not think of a single time where I have not been able to find a parking space. During the day, street parking is almost always available. On the weekends, there are 3 parking garages to choose from and I've never seen them full. I think I've parked on the top of the Schiller deck one time. I just don't see this desperate need. I don't think parking is what keeps people from coming downtown. I think Elmhurst residents spend a lot of time and money there. Non-residents passing through, have the privilege of driving around downtown via the Schiller underpass. Some drive that route daily and may have no idea of what is downtown. If I was Chipotle or Meatheads, I would want a sign facing Schiller. Maybe even on the corner sign with Walgreens. But I'm sure zoning does not allow that. Maybe they haven't asked. Having said that, if the alderman can't decide between 4 and 6 stories, then just build 5 and let's move on to other issues.
Todd Benson September 23, 2013 at 10:23 PM
If we're discussing the City building a parking deck, which indicates we need parking in Downtown, why is there still a need for our city to fund more retail space. Parking deck for parking. If private developers want to build retail space, let them, on their own dime, in land that they acquire. Fairly simple. Say no more!
NancyC September 24, 2013 at 08:36 AM
My sentiments exactly Todd. This is where government overreach needs to be nipped in the bud. I don't remember any alderman running for election based on their real estate development skills or experience.
BG September 24, 2013 at 03:48 PM
Didn't the old Mayor, tried to enhance his real estate business...
Karen Chadra (Editor) January 07, 2014 at 11:36 PM
The Zoning Commission public hearing on the Addison parking deck has been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, at City Hall. This is your opportunity to let the city know what you want—or don't want.
Elm Forest January 08, 2014 at 12:26 PM
Thanks for posting the Jan. 23 public hearing Karen. Let us hope for a good turnout. Alderman Norman Leader said some people regard change "as a disease to be avoided at all costs." I regard this statement as insulting. Hopefully Mr. Leader won't be unopposed his next election so change can happen for Norman and more importantly the people that he now represents. I hope you understand Norman the disease you're talking about seems to be you! Yes, of course, I base that on your disingenuous statement. Your political ego seems to has exploded on you as you have occupied the aldermanic office way too many terms. That change is something you are afraid of Alderman.
ConcernedElhmhurstTaxpayer January 09, 2014 at 08:34 AM
Hello Alderman & City Officials - Why do we need another lousy, ugly and unneeded Parking deck in the City. The two we have are underutilized and ugly as sin! Why another, I know why - this thing must be a gold mine for the builder and developer, what a waste of taxpayer funds. Thank you Tammy for your help in exposing the underhanded way the City Counsel and public officials hide the costs and facts on this parking deck. You should all be ashamed!

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