A proposed four-story, 125-unit senior apartment building has been recommended for approval by the River Forest development review board.
During two days of public hearings, review board members heard from several residents who expressed concerns over the project, which would be constructed at the northwest corner of Harlem and Chicago avenues, if approved by the village board.
Proposed by Senior Lifestyle and Kaufman Jacobs, the development would include studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments for seniors needing assisted living and memory care services.
The structure would be four stories in height in the middle, while its north and south ends would include only three floors. A pitched roof above the four-story portion would require a height allowance of 68.5 feet, though the ends of the building are expected to top out at around 44 feet.
Following the hearing, the review board voted 4-2 to recommend the project be approved by the village board, with several conditions. Those conditions include permitting only right turns from the site onto Harlem Avenue, recommending parking on Iowa Street be reserved for local residents only, presentation of a final landscaping plan to the village board, allowing deliveries only between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. and requiring snowfall be stored or removed from the property and not placed on the public way.
The proposal will now head to a future village board meeting for final approval by the board of trustees.
The proposal includes the former TCF Bank property at 800 N. Harlem Ave., and the three residential homes to the north, which would be purchased and demolished by the developer, if approved.
According to an analysis by Teska Associates Inc., the four properties currently generate about $102,000 in annual property taxes for all taxing bodies. The report states the senior living development could increase that amount to more than $600,000 annually.
In 2017, the four parcels paid taxes of $30,576 to Oak Park and River Forest High School and $39,616 to River Forest District 90. According to Teska, the taxes paid to OPRF and District 97 would increase to about $188,583 and $244,340, respectively, if the building were constructed.
In addition, the property could also bring in more than $575,000 in one-time permit and development fees to the village.
In wrapping up discussions on Sept. 6, review board member Mary Ann Fishman said she felt the senior care facility could cause less of a hassle to neighbors than a traditional commercial space.
“This looks like a very high-quality project that can provide a lot of services,” Fishman said. “I think it’s an excellent project from that standpoint. I think this could be a very quiet use for the corner.”
Member David Crosby praised the architecture of the structure, particularly the use of multiple building materials and the setbacks of the north and south ends.
“Visually, it will be smaller than it is,” Crosby said. “It is a big building, but architecturally, he’s done what he can to bring down that scale.”
Crosby, however, felt the project may include too much parking, and asked if some spaces to the west could be removed to include more landscaping to mask the structure from residents living on Bonnie Brae Place.
As proposed, the site would contain 74 parking spaces. Officials with Senior Lifestyle said memory care residents would not drive, and 10 percent of assisted living residents are expected to have cars.
Review board member Therese O’Brien, however, worried about the project’s effects on local residents, particularly those to the west and north.
“When [the northern residents] bought their house, they bought next to a residential,” O’Brien said. “I think that changes the whole landscape of that home. I think it also affects the properties on Bonnie Brae Place. They thought they’d be living behind commercial about 30 to 35 feet high. Some of these things, I think, are a little too [much]. I think it’s too big.”
Review board members David Crosby, Fishman, Gerry Dombrowski and Lisa Ryan voted to support the project, with chair Frank Martin and O’Brien voting against it.
Resident Saskia Bolore, who lives along Bonnie Brae Place, was one of several who spoke against the size of the proposal.
“They make a good case that there is demand [for senior housing] and, over time, it’s only going to be a higher demand,” Bolore said. “I still don’t think that means our village has to compromise its principles for this company to maximize its profits. I still think this is too big of a development for that space. It does not fit our neighborhood feel.”
Resident Daniel Roche said he has asked developers about the economic viability of reducing the size of the building, but claims he has never been given an answer.
“I’m not opposed to the development,” Roche said. “I’m not one of those ‘not-in-my-backyard’ folks. We have consistently and repeatedly asked them why we need it this high. That has still yet to come. It leaves a bad taste in our mouth and leaves a bad precedent if you want to be a good neighbor.”