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Elmhurst City Council Members Begin to Develop Criteria for Hahn Site

Requests for proposals will be going out to developers soon as city officials get a second crack at this stalled development.

Elmhurst aldermen will spend some time over the next month thinking about the most important elements of any new development at Hahn and York streets. City staff presented a first draft of a request for proposals for the site on Monday, and asked aldermen what they would like to emphasize for those 10 parcels that form a northern gateway to City Centre.

The site in question, bordered by North Avenue, York Road, Addison and Third streets, was part of the downtown tax increment financing district (TIF 1) that was established in 1986, but economic decline stalled development there. The developer formerly under contract with the city, Morningside Group, cut its losses and walked away from the project; the city let Morningside out of its contract last March. The Hahn parcels were then moved into the newly created North York Road TIF, which stretches up to Grand Avenue.

The RFP calls for developers to bring ideas for a residential building with first-floor retail and at least 100 public parking spaces. The city wants to limit the height of the building to four stories, or 45 feet, on the York Road side and three stories, or 35 feet, on the Addison Street side.

Proposals will be evaluated by assigning points to a list of criteria, which is likely to include economic feasibility and how well the project fits into the neighborhood. Aldermen want some criteria to weigh more than others, and they also want to consider adding some as well.

First Ward Alderman Diane Gutenkauf, for example, wants to give extra points to any project that improves the site's ability to handle stormwater. Third Ward Aldermen Dannee Polomsky suggested more emphasis on accessibility beyond what is required by the Americans With Disabilities Act, and 4th Ward Alderman Kevin York said he wanted to see details on how any development would impact local schools.

Fifth Ward Alderman Scott Levin said he wondered how best to evaluate any proposal's architecture, noting that “good” design may not fit with the other buildings in the area.

Assistant City Manager Mike Kopp suggested staff provide detailed descriptions of each criterion, then send a survey to council members asking how they would weigh each item.

The request for proposals will state the city also is open to developer ideas beyond retail and residential uses. Aldermen have said they wanted to see creative uses for the site. But a consultant told them in September, then that the current market conditions make apartments the best option for the parcels.

Residents of Elmhurst: What kind of development would you like to see at Hahn Street? Tell us in the comments.

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North Side November 27, 2012 at 05:41 PM
please, no more apartment buildings, condos, townhouses, etc...
an Elmhurst mom November 28, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Thanks for your opinion, random consultant who doesn't live in Elmhurst, but the people who live here do NOT want more apartments. "Current market conditions" being what they are, this is not the time to build something (more apartments) that starts the tipping of scales that will drive long-term stable homeowners out of Elmhurst and sway new buyers in a different direction.
Jim Court November 28, 2012 at 03:10 AM
I assume that the site is not larger enough for a Home Center. Am I correct?
Susan Smentek November 28, 2012 at 03:30 PM
No apartments. This neighborhood has suffered enough with the condo and town home developments. There are always units for sale and the transient residents make it much harder for us to maintain our friendly community. Also, this neighborhood has no parks or playgrounds (North Avenue to the Metra tracks, York to West Avenue). Green space would be nice. Now, convince a Trader Joe's to open there and it would be a dream come true!
Jim Court November 28, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Actually, a community green space/park to hold community events and give an alternative gathering place would also be nice. Although I value tax dollars, we need to keep open space. I would gather the best and brightest and brainstorm concepts for this location and strive to develop it to bring maximum benefit to the community. Although I advocated for a hotel that caters to the business community which would benefit our downtown district, that may no longer be viable in these economic times. Elmhurst is somewhat of an insular community and there are only so many disposable dollars. By converting it to a park it leaves the space available for future development should the economy change. In the mean time it does not needlessly languish. We could create an ice skating feature for the winter. Concerts and fairs in the summer. A farmers market, art shows, book fairs. A sprinkler for the kids. Gazebos to gather under, many benches.Park District activities. Colorful plantings by volunteers. Church events, rented space for picnics. This would mark us as an upscale community. We need to think in terms of one years from now, not just in the moments. Elmhurst is a great community. Lets make it even better.
Lived in 5 other metro areas... November 28, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Gently, please, Em...sometimes people with experience of other cities might be able to offer a perspective. I don't expect that he/she feels they know whats best, they're hired to offer an informed opinion of what's been successful in other towns.
Elm Forest November 28, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Those are some very good thoughts Jim Court. What is best for the community? It seems to come down to revenue with instant gratification for the city elect, instead of what the city could do to continue in lead. Apartments are a very quick fix that would be a long term handicap for the personality of Elmhurst. I have to laugh at the consultant's claims of how the apartments would be built and look ("all have granite counter tops"). Is he hooked up with a builder? Really? I feel any consultant that advises building apartments has another agenda that isn't pro-Elmhurst. And how much was he paid per hour to tell us that? The new consultants look to earn 90 to 100 dollars an hour. Pretty good money when you figure they aren't answering to the citizens. Thirty years ago I moved to Chicago and we used to drive out to the far western suburbs and would occasionally pass through Elmhurst on North Ave. At that time what impressed me was really nothing. I could see that the town was mostly residential on North but it had no real lasting impression, no inviting anthem but just a kind of mediocre community. It was a decade later while researching communities to move to that we looked at Elmhurst. I wasn't expecting much but found that North Ave. was a veil that concealed a wonderful community. Even today there's not much that's worth viewing on North Ave. that invites you to experience the personality and culturally rich Elmhurst and again I agree with Jim Court.
Lived in 5 other metro areas... November 28, 2012 at 05:36 PM
In one city that we lived in, there was a small and beautifully landscaped 'Peaceable Kingdom". Larger cast iron and/or copper lion with a lamb and a child. Toddler sized play area with swings, with a 4' iron fence and gate, so kids were fairly safe from street traffic. Many benches for resting and enjoying. Very well designed for function. Don't know if it's the answer, just was really appreciated. It was probably about 50' x 30'. Can get more info, if interest.
Lived in 5 other metro areas... November 28, 2012 at 06:07 PM
nj, must we slam a person making a living? Offer your opinion to teach, like Jim.
Steve November 28, 2012 at 09:22 PM
My suggestion would be that don't limit your comments and/or suggestions to the Elmhurst Patch. Go tell the full city council during the public forum section of the council meeting.
Karen Chadra (Editor) November 28, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Definitely let your aldermen know what you'd like to see. Let's keep the conversation going here, too. We'll be following Hahn Street for a long time in this virtual meeting room. Aldermen read Patch, too :)
Jim Court November 29, 2012 at 12:42 AM
I just had another idea. What if Elmhurst College created student Housing at this location? It would bring a lot of students into the downtown area. Currently Elmhurst Terrace houses many of the students. It could have a college like appearance and give a strong impression of the community. Off campus classes might even be held. I agree that North avenue has a marginal appearance and that is why I suggested a tax freeze on newly developed properties with perhaps a ten percent annual increase. The primary impression one see's driving down North ave. says little positive about our wonderful community.
Alan Brinkmeier November 29, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Hi Jim I am on the Elmhurst College board of trustees. I believe our current master plan accounts for the current and projected housing needs according to what EC projects. Also, according to some of our college student surveys housing so distant from campus is not a likely draw in the current group that are attracted to Elmhurst College. Finally, Elmhurst Terrace remains an option but it is seeminly on the wane, due to these kinds of factors. We will always keep listening closely to what our constiuents want. Alan Brinkmeier
Jim Court November 29, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Alan, At one time I offered a property zoned r4 for the College. It seemed to receive good reception but a change in leadership and the priority of a new science building, coupled with the real estate crash, made this no longer possible. Although it was located in Villa Park, it was right by the train. Students could take the train, leave their cars at home, and be there quickly. Villa Park was even willing to vacate the street to give proper parking required. Have you ever heard about this?
Jim Court November 29, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Elmhurst could use some compelling feature that would attract outsiders and serve the community well. At one time I mentioned the conversion of one of the quarries into Elmhurst Lake. A water feature would be an example of something unique. That is why I also mentioned a park located in the downtown area. Years ago I talked about the small area in front of the police station, which is underutilized although the new seating area is a plus. The downtown should be seen as the heart and hub of our community. We need some "wow" factor to attract continued development in our community. Increased property taxes will keep this community viable.
Tom Macchione December 01, 2012 at 12:33 AM
What about using all those ideas in the parks we already have that no one uses. Development supports local business and makes for a vibrant economy. Apartments wouldn't be cheap so people there would most likely add to the community. Many people are now choosing not to own real estate in IL because of the horrible financial condition of this state so people that need to live here will be needing apartments. I see no problem with more density in the downtown district. Why does everyone think there is collusion when a private developer wants to build and assume the risk that comes along with it. I say keep the gov't out of it because there is nothing valuable that they can add to the mix. Gov't is just an impedance to growth, note the obama policies.
Jim Court December 01, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Tom, Your logic is good. I would agree that the parks do not get the use they should. Residents of Elmhurst seem somewhat introverted and conservative so Parks do go unused. I agree that there will be a demand for apartments. Seniors who do not wish to own and for younger people who wish to live in the area. My thought was that we need a community gathering spot located in the downtown central district. Do any of the readers of these pages have any ideas? I would like to hear them.
Jim Court December 02, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Has the Patch lost its voice? In someways it seems similar the the Elmhurst Not So Independent. Unwilling to challenge anything and very deferential to those in positions of authority. The limited number of people responding suggests the possibility.
Susan Smentek January 24, 2013 at 03:13 AM
If you have kids in sports activities, than you might say that the Elmhurst Parks get used a lot. They're packed with activities. More transient density in downtown Elmhurst hurts the long time residents (who already have no green space).
Jim Court January 24, 2013 at 04:17 AM
Susan, You have a good point but doesn't transient activity support our merchants and add to our tax dollars. Green space would be a wonderful addition to the downtown. It might even be better than development over the long haul.

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