The most recent proposal for the always controversial Roos property received a mostly positive reception from the 40 or so residents who came to the Howard Mohr Community Center for the unveiling of the latest plans last Thursday evening.
“The piece of property we’re here to talk about will go down in the history books as the most contentious piece of land in the history of Forest Park,” said Mayor Anthony Calderone at the outset of the meeting. “[The developers] were told from the start that if you think you’re going to have any chance, you really need to engage the community.”
Architect John Schiess, speaking on behalf of developer Alex Troyanovsky and the Regency Development Group, then showcased plans for a 102 unit residential development which would include both new townhouses as well as lofts in the existing Roos building at 7329 Harrison St.
According to records from the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, the property was purchased for $2.9 million on May 16. The previous owner Patrick Wangler purchased it in 1994 for $675,000.
The development, if eventually approved by the village, would include 28 townhouses with three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms and 60 lofts and condos, including 34 one bedroom and 1.5 bathroom units and 26 two bedroom and two bathroom units.
It would also include six “garden villas” with one bedroom and 1.5 bathrooms and eight penthouse units with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The penthouses would be added to the existing building’s roof, but Schiess assured they would be positioned inwardly to avoid detracting from the appearance of the building.
Schiess emphasized his plans to keep the currently standing Roos building, the former home of the Edward Roos Cedar Chest Company. The previous developer, Patrick Wangler, had planned to demolish the building, leading to protest from local historians and neighbors.
Though much remodeling will be necessary, Schiess said, all efforts will be made to “retain the character of the building.” Schiess even hopes to move his own offices into the former water tower that tops off the building along Harrison Street. New windows would need to be installed in the tower, while the single-pane metal windows throughout the building would need to be replaced.
“We set the scale of the townhomes back off the street and lower than the building. We want the building to be the central feature,” he said, noting that the townhomes would also feature masonry construction designed to replicate the architecture of the Roos building.
Schiess also called attention to his plans to bring the amount of green space on the 107,198 square foot property bordering the Park District up from 1,100 square feet to 31,244 square feet.
A good portion of the audience’s questions dealt with the issue of parking ” the proposed plan calls for 157 total spaces, falling short of the village’s requirement of two spaces per unit. If the current plan remains, Schiess would have to receive a variation from the village council allowing the reduced parking in order to proceed with the project.
Each of the townhomes would come with a two car garage, while loft dwellers would be given a space in an enclosed parking garage along Circle Avenue (traffic would exit the garage onto Hannah Avenue). There would also be 23 off street spaces for visitors along Hannah Avenue.
Park District Executive Director Dave Novak was particularly pleased to see that the current off street parking spots along Harrison Street would be eliminated.
“That’s one of my biggest concerns. When you exit the Park from Sansone Drive, it’s difficult to stick your nose out and get on to Hannah, and then again to get onto Harrison. I think it’s good that the line of site won’t be blocked by those cars anymore,” he said.
Still, some were concerned that the development would make an already dangerous traffic situation worse. “I probably drive by the Roos building 25 times a day,” said one Forest Park school bus driver. “You need to get together with the city to talk about a traffic light at Circle and Harrison.”
He said he was open to exploring the suggestion. Schiess also said he planned to talk to the CTA about the possibility of reopening the Circle Avenue entrance to the Harlem CTA station.
He said that the site had undergone two environmental studies with a third scheduled, and thus far he had been told no problems have surfaced. Along the expressway, he said, plans call for a brick garden wall with landscaping to be constructed.
Asked about the projected demographics for the development, Schiess said he expected the townhomes to attract mostly “professional buyers who value the fact that all the maintenance is done for them.” The lofts, he said, would likely attract a younger crowd that is expected to rely heavily on public transportation, while the penthouses are forecasted to attract “empty nesters cashing out of equity rich homes.”
None of these groups, he noted, would be likely to create much of a burden on local schools.
The townhouses, Schiess said, will start at $475,000 while the lofts will start at $250,000. The penthouses, he said, would be “significantly more,” but he did not name a number.
Schiess said he planned to schedule further meetings with area residents and stakeholders before beginning the process of presenting the project to the various village agencies that will review it if zoning variations are necessary.
“We get very different receptions in different towns, and what I’ve felt here so far has been extremely welcoming,” he said.