Oak Lawn’s Planning & Development Committee has approved a development that should allow Advocate Medical Group to redevelop the Beatty Lumber site in the center of the Village.
At the July 18th Planning & Development Commission [PDC] meeting, the public was presented with a plan by Advocate Medical Group [AMG] to build an outpatient medical office building at the site of the former Beatty Lumber at 52nd Avenue and 96th Street, across the tracks from the Metra station. AMG presented their plan for a 58,000 square feet facility with parking on both sides of 52nd Avenue.
While residents expressed concerns about certain details of the proposal, none seemed to strenuously oppose the development as a whole. Residents raised concerns about overflow parking negatively affecting neighbors and the businesses along 95th Street. AMG presented a plan for the layout of the parking lots. The main lot, to the east of 52nd Avenue, would provide 52 parking stalls. The secondary lot, to the west of 52nd Avenue, would provide an additional 77 parking stalls. The total number of parking stalls available, according to the submitted plan, was 129.
According to Village code, a medical development of the size proposed requires 572 parking stalls. To address that shortcoming, AMG proposed entering into a contract with the Village for 105 parking stalls in the Metra parking structure. This would still leave the development short by 338 parking stalls. As such, AMG also requested approval for a parking requirement variation.
Resident Sean Schrader, a former Planning & Development commissioner, made the point that allowing AMG 105 parking stalls in the garage would limit further development of the 95th Street Corridor Plan. The garage currently has 821 parking stalls, and according to a representative from AMG, it is at 79% usage. With AMG using the additional 105 stalls, the garage would be at 92% capacity. It would become exceedingly difficult to offer any further parking for new developments along the corridor in the town center.
One possibility for additional surface parking is the land currently occupied by a rail spur to the north of Narrow Street. AMG estimated up to an additional 11 parking stalls could be included.
Norfolk Southern Railway, which owns the train tracks and their underlying property, objected to the Village vacating Narrow Street, which runs adjacent to the tracks, between 52nd Avenue and Tulley Avenue to the north of the site. Their rail spur, approximately 600 feet long, currently abuts and intersects with Narrow Street. The Village has been pressuring Norfolk Southern to sell that spur and its underlying property so that the land can be redeveloped. But the Village and the railway have not been able to agree on a price for the property. Norfolk Southern contends that the property the spur sits on is worth up to seven figures. The Village’s position is that the spur is now defunct and near worthless, because there will never be heavy industry in the area again. The spur is sure to lose even further value with Narrow Street’s vacation, as there will be no access to the end of the spur.
To further complicate matters, Village officials presented ideas to build townhouses on the south end of the properties, along 96th Street. Mayor Sandra Bury and Village Manager Larry Deetjen first floated the idea to residents at the neighborhood meeting three days ago, on July 15th. Reactions were mixed, with residents worried about adding even more traffic to an already congested area. There were no plans presented, no concrete numbers, simply rough ideas.
While the Village requested that a condition of the approval from PDC was that AMG consider adding townhouses to the development, Trustee Robert Streit (District 3) objected to the condition. Streit noted that there just isn’t enough space on the site.
“Adding any townhouses and their additional traffic would exacerbate the traffic and parking problems in the area instead of improving it,” Streit said after the meeting.
Several commissioners also expressed concern that the proposal was only providing 129 on-site parking stalls.
Neighbors also asked for a means to alleviate a possible privacy problem, with the two-story building looking down over their houses and yards. A possible landscape buffer suggested by Streit was also made a condition of approval, and could mitigate that issue. Part of 96th Street would be turned into landscaping, making room for trees.
The matter will go before the Board of Trustees for final approval.