A special meeting was held at village hall last week to discuss a townhouse complex proposed by developer Michael Madock for the 100 block of Elgin Avenue.
The Elgin Commons development, according to current plans, would include 18 units on the west side of Elgin and would take up 37,870 square feet.
Madock, who resides in Forest Park, said that he sees the area as an ideal location for a townhouse development. “The location lends itself (to townhouses) by the fact that it’s on the perimeter of town between major thoroughfares,” he said during his introductory comments to the village’s Plan Commission on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Madock also told the commission about his plans to maximize green space through a non-traditional layout that would feature a center courtyard. “The buildings are designed so they’re all somewhat different to give more of a single family home feel,” he said.
According to the proposed plans, one of the buildings would face Dixon Street while two would face Elgin Avenue and two would face the center courtyard.
Still, the Plan Commission expressed numerous concerns regarding the proposed development. Chairman Steve Bitter noted that the construction of the townhouses would necessitate the removal of five homes, two of which can be seen as having historic value.
“There’s been a lot of talk of historic preservation lately,” he said, referring to the village’s recent establishment of a Historic Preservation Commission that will review applications from residents wishing to have their homes or neighborhoods designated as landmarks or historic districts.
“I’d hate to have a building that potentially fits that (landmark) category be destroyed without having a chance,” he said.
Madock noted that all five homeowners on the block are in favor of the development and plan to become property owners in the three-story townhouse complex. The units, according to Madock, would sell for $419,000.
He suggested moving one historic bungalow on the block to another location, but admitted that the second historic home would be difficult to move because of its size.
Commission member Bill Kirchner spoke in favor of the idea of moving the bungalow, suggesting that, if an empty lot is available, it could be moved to an area with other historic homes in an effort to establish a historic district in town.
Bitter also expressed concerns regarding the increase in density that the project would bring to the area. “Do we need to throw another set of buildings into the area that may be overly dense as is?” he asked.
Madock pointed out that he would not be asking for any variances to exceed the village’s density requirements for the area, for which Kirchner commended him, stating that “too often plans come before us wanting much more than the allowable density.”
Commission member Tim Condon, however, was still concerned. “Even if we’re not looking for variances we’re still more than doubling the headcount on the block,” he said, suggesting that Madock decrease the number of units in his plans.
Bitter suggested considering a more traditional layout for the project, noting that “the layout is quite different from anything else in the neighborhood…it does bother me a bit.”
Madock, of course, had a different perspective. “I was trying to get away from the usual way that (townhouses) are built ” the standard row of buildings that sort of look like barracks,” he said, noting that his plan would increase green-space toward the front of the complex.
Madock also noted that the complex, if approved, would be one of the first in the midwest to utilize SIPS (Structurally Insulated Panels) on its exterior walls and ceilings, which he said would reduce energy consumption by 30 to 40 percent over conventional fiberglass insulation. The units, he said, would also utilize geothermal technology, which heats home by drawing thermal energy from the ground, to further cut energy use.
“This is going to make a big splash,” he said. “A lot of people in the Chicago area would love to live in a green building.”
Last week’s meeting was intended only as a preliminary workshop to discuss the development, and Madock has not yet filed a formal application with the village. If Madock proceeds with his plan, the Plan Commission will eventually vote on whether to recommend approval of the complex to the village council.