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City Pleads Its Case for 6-story Garage; Counterpoint Will Have to Wait

Architects initially "struggled" with six stories as compared to surrounding buildings, but they are comfortable with it now. "(T)o the south and west, we have no concerns whatsoever," Louis Vandeloecht said.

Architect Louis Vandeloecht explains to Elmhurst Zoning and Planning Commission how a six-story parking deck on Addison Avenue will look. (Credit: Karen Chadra)
Architect Louis Vandeloecht explains to Elmhurst Zoning and Planning Commission how a six-story parking deck on Addison Avenue will look. (Credit: Karen Chadra)

Elmhurst residents braved the cold Thursday night hoping to express their opinion about a proposed six-story parking garage on Addison Avenue. But the public comment portion of Elmhurst Zoning and Planning Commission's public hearing never happened.

The City of Elmhurst, which is applying for a conditional use permit and associated variations in order to build the structure, spent 2 1/2 hours presenting its case. At 10 p.m., Zoning Commission Chairman Darrell Whistler asked commissioners if they wanted to continue the meeting.

"Otherwise we'll be here until 11:30," he said. "We've been through this before. People start getting tired, they get irritated, they don't listen to facts."

Commission members agreed to schedule public comment for Thursday, Jan. 30.

"Psychologically, I understand that," Elmhurst resident Michael Krumrey said after the meeting. "But at the same time, they knew ahead of time how long their presentation was going to take. Why not state that up front, at the beginning of the meeting?"

Krumrey said that while it was his first time attending a Zoning Commission meeting regarding the Addison parking deck, many in the audience had already heard the information presented.

"They already knew most of that," he said.

The city is asking the commission to consider the following:

  • A conditional use permit to allow the building height to be 65 feet as opposed to 45 feet currently allowed without a hearing
  • Permission to build lot-line-to-lot-line, foregoing the current requirement for 25-foot setback on the front and sides of the property and 15 feet in the rear
  • Elimination of the requirement for a loading dock in the rear of the property

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, but the city is now taking the lead on what the structure will be.

The project has been in the planning stages since 2009, when the original public/private partnership agreement for a four-story parking garage was signed with Addison LLC.

City Manager Jim Grabowski and Assistant City Manager Mike Kopp introduced experts in architecture, engineering, traffic, parking and property valuation to plead their case Thursday.

Architect Louis Vandeloecht, who designed the parking garage on Larch and First streets, said the Addison deck would incorporate similar materials as the one on Larch. The idea is to make it look more like an office/retail mixed-use development than a garage by incorporating glass, columns, pillars and archways, he said. There will be several access points for pedestrians, and vehicle access will be off of Addison, on the northwest corner of the building.

Commissioner Frank Mushow asked Vandeloecht if, in his opinion, he thought six stories in that area is "pushing it" with the lower buildings surrounding it.

"That's something we struggled with," Vandeloecht said, adding that once they saw a simulation of the structure on Google Earth, their concerns diminished.

"At some point, we'll need some development … to the north, but to the south and west, we have no concerns whatsoever," he said. Elmhurst Auto Clinic is directly to the north of the proposed structure, at 153 N. Addison.

Civil Engineer Bryan Rieger said even though stormwater detention is not required according to the DuPage County flood ordinance, an underground detention vault would be built under the garage that would hold one acre-foot of water. Utility lines also would be buried for reliability and safety, he said.

Traffic consultant Jim Woods of Civiltech Engineering said that based on conservative estimates, the garage will not cause traffic problems. Road modifications would not be necessary, with the exception of extending the existing one-way portion of Addison to the north end of the structure, between the garage entrance and Second Street. He also said signage, better delineated crosswalks, corner windows and a flashing light would improve pedestrian safety.

Parking experts Bill Grieve and Amanda Larson of Gewalt Hamilton said, based on "walking zones," the 690 parking spaces six stories would provide will address what they determined to be a parking deficit, but four or five stories would not. 

Finally, Michael MaRous, an appraiser, said based on a market impact analysis, a six-story garage will "not be injurious to the use and enjoyment of the property nor diminish or impair property values." He said the proposed use is consistent with the city's comprehensive plan.

Elmhurst resident and community watchdog Tamara Brenner said she wasn't surprised the commission continued the meeting until next week, but that residents have "heard all of this before."

"I think the unfortunate part is that the applicant was able to get its point of view across, and there has been no counterpoint," Brenner said. "I think there are a lot of counterpoints to be made, and we have to now wait a week to make them."

In past hearings on Addison, the vast majority of residents who spoke were opposed to a six-story garage. 

The next Zoning Commission meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, at City Hall, 209 N. York.

Myriad documents related to this proposal are available on the city's website through BoardDocs

Joy January 24, 2014 at 01:59 PM
Since when did the voice of the taxpayers in this town mean so little ? Its a behemoth and and insult to the eyes and the residents. Our elected officials are not working in our behalf.
Me January 25, 2014 at 10:16 AM
Is there a need for a 6 story parking garage? Last time I looked we have local business closing their doors. Not that many people shopping and carrying shopping bags in the downtown area. We already have 2 parking garages and our downtown is not very big. Lets spend more time on bigger issues like the flooding causing long time residents to pick up and move from this wonderful town. The parking garage being 4 or 6 stories is not going to make or break this town.
WLA January 25, 2014 at 02:32 PM
Split the difference and make it 5 and the let us park for 4 hours instead of 3.
Idont Givitout January 26, 2014 at 08:19 PM
I think perhaps they should go 2 underground and 4 above ground. Then there should also be underground tunnels going to every store/retail facility in downtown including moving walkways like they have at O'Hare.
Jim Court January 31, 2014 at 09:17 AM
Idont Clever and creative idea but the walkways probably would be prohibitive. Underground parking might be a real winner that in effect gives six stories and yet blends in to the existing neighborhood. The city should seek ideas from many and the eliminate those that will not be feasible. I stated that the Elmhurst Library should have had underground parking before it was built. I also stated that East End Park should have created a community building instead of a building used 3 months out of the year. I wish ideas were listened to but my sense is that they are not.
Susan Smentek January 31, 2014 at 11:33 AM
Send your comments on the Addison parking structure to Than.Werner@elmhurst.org and request to have them entered into the public record at the hearing, which has been continued to February 13.

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