Investing on Austin Blvd. – Wednesday Journal

The last new residential construction on Austin Boulevard comes from the mid-century era where California motel-style buildings were considered in vogue. Now one of those near eyesores may be demolished to make way for a notable new building.

The Oak Park Residence Corporation, one of those quasi public-private partnerships which are hard to explain but have had big impact on Oak Park’s integration and its housing stock, is proposing a new apartment building for the corner of Austin and Van Buren. It would be on the site of the motel-like building which it has long owned.

ResCorp made its pitch to neighbors last week for this handsome, modern, remarkably sustainable and, yes, taller than typical apartment house. The project also builds in nine affordable units out of the total of 44 units.

The response, as our Lacey Sikora reports today, is mixed. Mixed is better than full-out NIMBY. Even a critic who lives in a handsome condo building just next door and is justifiably riled that the height will block much of the sunshine into the condo units admits the proposed building is “beautiful.” 

Other neighbors have the usual and reasonable concern over too few parking spots. And one is dubious of plans for a “colonnade” structure that would extend over the public sidewalk as part of an effort to create a beeline straight across Austin Boulevard and into wondrous, undervalued, Columbus Park. 

We’d note the valid griping that most all the new construction in Oak Park happens in and around the downtown districts. And we celebrate the idea of investment on Austin Boulevard that is bold and beautiful, that stuns with its focus on sustainability, that bets on mixing affordable and market rate pricing. It has to be noted that ResCorp has been an outstanding landlord with a wide but, until recently, unambitious approach to housing. 

There will be hearings. Neighbors’ voices will be heard. Perhaps there are compromises to be made. Overall, we think this project, this investment on Austin Boulevard is invigorating.

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