By Tessa Voytovich, Reporter
Eye rolls and indistinct protests were a common occurrence in the crowd at the Village of La Grange Planning Commission meeting for the proposed condominium complex seeking zoning amendments. Focused residents stood up to get a better look at the plans for the building that were projected on a screen in the La Grange Village Hall chamber on Feb. 12.
In the beginning of the meeting, the project’s lawyer Vince Mancini presented the plans and the changes made to them on behalf of the applicant Dennis Sullivan. DTLG Investments LLC is seeking multiple approvals to construct the building, including a zoning amendment to change the property zone from commercial to multiple family residential.
“[The owner] saw an opportunity, as he told you at the last meeting, to really revitalize the east-side of La Grange," Mancini said. “This is that project.”
Residents and other opponents of the project reference the perceived historical significance of the old Jackson Square mall building as one of their main concerns about demolishing it.
“The fact that it's old doesn't make it historically significant,” Mancini said.
In 1975, the State of Illinois identified 108 historic properties in La Grange, all of which were single family homes. The Jackson Square Mall, according to the State of Illinois, has no historical importance, Sullivan said. Some have a different perspective.
“Think about the historical significance to our town, to Chicago and to our country,’ LT student Amanda Kural ‘19 said. “I know that the board that came in 1975 said it wasn’t historically significant. These people wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t historically significant. It's been 40, 50 years since then and I think the historical significance of the building has been proven time and time again.”
The developers are hoping to relieve these qualms by preserving pieces of the building for remembrance, President of the La Grange Historical Society Mark Truax said.
“Preservation is what we encourage and like to do so hopefully whatever the outcome is, we still get some preservation out of this,” Truax said. “We've already scheduled photo documentation of the building, so at least that will be on record.”
The old building is not in good shape. The terracotta glazed tiles are falling apart and the bricks are dilapidated, Sullivan said. One resident addressed the commission in agreement with the developers.
“To me it is one big ugly building with blank walls, ordinary brick, and a few narrow windows,” Bob Fredriksen said. “It reminds me of the Cook County jail. It’s not worth saving.”
The developers were adamant that they would include some of the original design’s decorative details.
“We played off this architecture and some of the Moorish influence. You can really see that in the design,” Sullivan said. “This sample here is showing how we are really trying to incorporate these materials and colors and really enhance this site with a new building and landmark for LaGrange. The new design will be a much nicer feature.”
Opponents, however, believe the proposed condo building will be too expansive—especially those of the neighboring 9-unit condo complex located at 11 S. 6th ave., directly adjacent to the proposed building. Resident Mary McDonald spoke on their behalf at the meeting.
“The overwhelming consensus is that the proposed zero foot setback will affect us by diminishing our safety, privacy, light and air,” McDonald said. “This development will dominate our homes, affect our lives, adversely affect the value of our property, but most importantly the construction project may very well threaten the structural integrity of our building deeming it unsafe for habitability.”
Another concern that was raised multiple times was the risk of worsening an already existing blind spot on Burlington avenue.
“I think I have driven the route from Sixth Avenue north to Burlington, turning left onto Burlington probably 8,000 times since 1996,” resident Brianna Bill said. “One of the things that my neighbors and I have noticed repeatedly is that we have a major blind spot. So for all the reasons that have been raised already, plus this one, I would like to see the building scaled back.”