Lack of parking could doom plan for Sim's Bowl site

A developer is proposing a 7-story, 108-unit apartment building on the site of the former Sim's Bowl in downtown Des Plaines, but the plan faces an uphill battle due to opposition from some aldermen concerned it doesn't include enough parking.

Opus Development Co. is seeking city permission to construct the apartments at 1555-1565 Ellinwood Ave. and market them largely to those who use public transportation. Because of the site's proximity to the Metra station and Pace bus lines, Opus has labeled the project a "transit-oriented development."

But Alderman Patti Haugeberg, whose 1st Ward includes the site, said Monday the city's downtown already has parking woes with other multifamily dwellings.

"The city code is two parking spaces per unit, and we have to hold to that, especially in the downtown area," Haugeberg said. "The developer is saying people are going to commute on the train, but that doesn't make any difference. It must be two spaces."

Bob Lewandowski, the property owner, said the site is well-suited for rental units because of its proximity to the train station and he believes there will be enough parking. Lewandowski, a partner in real estate development firm R. Franczak and Associates, plans to sell the property to Opus.

"Having developed condos from Skokie to Palatine over the years, I could tell you 1.5 parking spaces works very, very well for these types of buildings," Lewandowski said. "It's a prime location with things picking up. I think Des Plaines has the opportunity to get more than 100 residents in the community. I think it would help enhance the downtown."

The development would have the required 2 parking spaces per unit - but only if spaces adjacent to the property were considered part of the total. The building would have 164 spaces in a two-story garage, along with 18 surface spaces, 12 street spaces in front of the building, and 22 in what is now a city-owned alley.

Des Plaines Economic Development Coordinator Lauren Pruss said the developer has had preliminarily discussions about purchasing the adjoining city alley. In a memo to members of the city planning and zoning board, Pruss recommends approval of variation requests for the project, contingent upon the sale of the city-owned parcel or a long-term lease for parking spaces.

The zoning board is expected to weigh in on the project tonight. It will make a recommendation to the city council, which has final say.

Haugeberg, who met with the developer when initial plans were brought to city officials a year and a half ago, said other aldermen share her concerns about parking.

The proposed building would include 20 efficiency units, 48 one-bedrooms, 10 one-bedrooms plus dens, and 30 two-bedroom units. Residents would have access to a fitness center, a lounge, an outdoor terrace and a club room.

The first floor would have a 3,700-square-foot lobby and a 1,800-square-foot retail space.

The 43,900-square-foot site includes a commercial building and vacant lot where Sim's Bowl was torn down in 2011 after falling into disrepair.

Foreclosure led to the bowling alley's closure in 2009 after 55 years as a downtown fixture. City officials at the time considered buying it.

  The iconic Sim's Bowl in Des Plaines shut its doors in 2009 amid foreclosure. It was torn down two years later. Madhu Krishnamurthy/, 2009
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