The proposed apartment development on Harrison Street near The Park got an expected rocky reception from neighbors last week before the Forest Park Plan Commission. The public comments were critical of the proposed four-story, 57-unit project. The complaints were: too tall, too dense, too little parking, too much traffic, water and sewer worries, and expected noise from a rooftop deck.
The plan commission heard a lackluster presentation from one of the developers. It then continued the meeting until April and asked the developer to come back with more details on several of the specific issues raised by neighbors.
This initial proposal may be too dense. A compromise on height and number of units may be necessary and fair.
Neighbors though also need to be ready to compromise. The hard reality is that the nearly block-long site currently houses an auto repair shop. And that’s the highlight. The balance of the parcel is an old restaurant that has been basically shuttered for a decade. When it does sporadically pop back to use it is a use that frustrates the neighbors. When it is dormant, it attracts pests and complaints.
The status quo is a flop.
Given current development trends, an apartment project is the least surprising suggested use. And refuting concerns that Forest Park will have too many apartments, well that is the risk the developer takes. Someone will live in these units and, based on the current proposal, even if rents soften this will still be a fairly high-end project. That’s good for Forest Park.
Also useful to remember is that this parcel faces outward to the north. The Park. The el. The Ike. And while it backs up to a single-family block to the south, it is, just as it long has been, a more active commercial use. While it must respect its single-family neighbors, it is zoned for a different use.
Neighbors also undersell their neighborhood when they denigrate the site’s appeal as a transit-oriented development. The Blue Line should be a selling point and a point of pride for Forest Park south of Madison. Argue over the number of parking spaces but check the research and you’ll see that many younger tenants choose to live near public transit and combine it with Uber rather than pay the high cost of owning a car.
Don’t drive this developer out. Find common ground. Or just watch the Pines rot some more.