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Park District of Oak Park Board of Commissioners Statement Regarding the 1000 Lake Street Proposed High-Rise Development

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Committed to protecting Oak Park's parks, green space and tree canopy that contribute to residents’ quality of life, the Park District of Oak Park’s Board of Commissioners is very concerned with the proposed mixed-use residential development at 1000 Lake Street. The high-rise building would be built directly south of Austin Gardens and west of the 21-story Vantage Oak Park building at Lake Street and Forest Avenue.

The Board of Park Commissioners opposes any development adjacent to the park over the current 80 foot allowance and urges the Village Board of Trustees to honor the current zoning ordinance. The 1000 Lake Street property is currently zoned for a structure with maximum height of 80 feet. The proposed development, with a height of 200 feet, is unacceptable because it will cause irreparable damage to Austin Gardens’ trees, plants and overall beauty. Based on shade studies, the Park Board believes the 18-story proposed building will seriously diminish critical sunlight to Austin Gardens and pose a serious risk to the health and sustainability of the trees and plants in this historic park located in the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District.

The Board is also concerned with the impact on the park from the increased number of residents and their pets using Austin Gardens. Thousands of additional residents are being added to Downtown Oak Park where the only green space is Austin Gardens.  The increased park use will impact the ability to maintain the same level of quality for our residents’ pleasure and respite.

While the Park District Board supports continued planning, growth and economic development in our community, we believe this proposal is unacceptable. It is the Park Board’s responsibility to protect the very limited and precious green spaces that make Oak Park a desirable place for people to live and play. Committed to being good environmental stewards, the Board believes we must all work together to protect and maintain the limited natural resources in our urban area so we can sustain a high quality of life for all.

The Park District is committed to continuing conversations with the Village of Oak Park and to conducting further studies to determine the impacts of the proposed development on Austin Gardens.

Respectfully,

Park District of Oak Park
Board of Commissioners

 

Austin Gardens Additional Background:

Described as Oak Park’s “secret garden,” Austin Gardens is 3.64 acres of parkland bounding with 278 trees. The only parks with more trees are Taylor Park with 305 trees within its 11.75acre boundary and Lindberg Park with 282 trees on 13.9 acres. Both of these parks are more than three times the size of Austin Gardens, emphasizing the lush vegetation within the borders of this beloved park.

The Park District of Oak Park has only 84 acres of park land. Based on per capita national standards of 10 acres per 1,000 residents, the Park District of Oak Park should provide at least 500 acres of recreation space for its 52,000+ residents. With the potential of 3,000 new residents in downtown Oak Park alone, the number of acres of parkland available to these residents should increase tenfold. Every tree and every foot of park land is a precious asset to our community and contributes to our quality of life.

Recent shadow studies, commissioned by the Park District and presented at the February 2 Park Board Meeting, show that any structure higher than 80 feet will block critical sunlight to the Gardens threatening mature trees, hurting younger trees and seriously damaging their root systems. Without adequate sunlight, Austin Gardens will not remain the oasis our residents enjoy that provides a respite from the bustle of downtown Oak Park. The park has already been negatively affected by the increased use of Austin Gardens by the new residents from the Vantage building who are walking their dogs in Austin Gardens. With the possibility of up to 3,000 new residents moving into the downtown area near Austin Gardens, the Park Board’s concern mounts for the health and sustainability of our park along with the escalating concern of our residents voiced in public meetings and via phone and email. Residents understand the value of open space and acknowledge that mature trees are a significant community resource that requires many years to develop and can provide community benefits for generations to come.

In December, the Park District conducted a prescribed burn in the Austin Gardens woodland area to promote oak regeneration, recycle organic nutrients back to the soils, stimulate the growth of native plants and control invasive weeds from growing. The following spring, as a result of the burn, many unique and rare natives were discovered in this area which had not been seen before. These new woodland ephemerals help feed insects and birds that inhabit Austin Gardens.

 

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