When is four stories five?
That is the question that the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Plan Commission will wrestle with.
Oak Park restaurateur Michael Pace, who owns the popular La Bella Pasteria and the Avenue Ale House restaurants in Oak Park, is planning to demolish the China Night restaurant building at 7410 W. Madison and has submitted plans to the village to construct a new building with a restaurant and eight condominiums at the location.
Pace originally wanted to build a five story building, which is allowed under current zoning, but village staff met with Pace and made clear to him that they would have a negative recommendation on that proposal according to conversations with Pace and village staff. Village officials want buildings on Madison street to be no taller than four stories according to Village Administrator Michael Sturino.
“We like how Madison street looks, and we want to enhance that kind of development,” said Sturino. “We are interested in working with Michael Pace and bringing another fine establishment to Forest Park. We want to work with Mr. Pace.”
Faced with the near certainty of a negative recommendation by village staff, Pace recently revised his plans and has now submitted to the village plans for what he calls a four story building.
However, after staff examined the new plans Sturino said that the revised plans call for a two level restaurant, and three stories of condos and, is in effect, still a five story tall building.
Sturino said that village staff has informed Pace that they will still issue a negative recommendation to the Zoning Board and that they consider his revised plan unacceptable.
“We believe a five story building will irrevocably change the character of the block,” said Sturino. “Unfortunately, his proposal is not one that staff can support in its current form.”
Pace believes that the restaurant which includes a ground level and a mezzanine should be considered one story.
Pace said he has yet to determine the type of restaurant that he offer, but said that he will try to bring something new to Madison street which has become a prime location for restaurants and fine dining in recent years.
“There is Italian, there’s French, there’s American, it’s going to be hard to come up with something new,” said Pace.
According to public records, Pace bought the building for $632,000 in June of last year from long time owner Michael Eng who had operated the restaurant for more than 20 years.
The restaurant has sat empty for more than a year. Four small one bedroom apartments are currently on the second floor of the building.
Pace said that he hopes to begin demolition by fall and have the building completed and the restaurant open by next summer.