Des Plaines candidates weigh in on O'Hare Lake redevelopment plans

  • From left, Malcolm Chester, Mario Palacios and Herman Zelk are candidates for Des Plaines' 6th Ward alderman in the April 7 election.

    From left, Malcolm Chester, Mario Palacios and Herman Zelk are candidates for Des Plaines' 6th Ward alderman in the April 7 election.

  • Candidates for alderman of Des Plaines' 6th Ward say they favor redevelopment of the O'Hare Lake office complex, but they caution that residents' concerns with tall buildings there should be taken into account.

    Candidates for alderman of Des Plaines' 6th Ward say they favor redevelopment of the O'Hare Lake office complex, but they caution that residents' concerns with tall buildings there should be taken into account. Courtesy of the City of Des Plaines

 
 
Posted3/31/2015 5:30 AM

Candidates for 6th Ward alderman in Des Plaines are weighing in on a proposed $1 billion real estate development, featuring buildings as high as 165 feet, that one day could abut residents' homes.

All three candidates running in the April 7 election generally agree with the idea of redeveloping the 52-acre O'Hare Lake office complex at 2200 E. Devon Ave., located within the 6th Ward, but they caution that neighbors' concerns should be taken into account.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The race pits three newcomers: Herman Zelk, Malcolm Chester and Mario Palacios. Current Alderman Mark Walsten is stepping down after eight years on the council because of city term limits.

The redevelopment proposal calls for as many as four 10-story office towers, five 11-story residential towers around Lake Peterson, two 9-story hotel towers facing Devon Avenue, and four levels of retail below the hotels.

Zelk, who grew up on Patton Drive just west of the complex, spoke out against the building heights during meetings of the plan commission and city council. During a recent candidate forum at Des Plaines city hall, Zelk said the proposed buildings on the west side of the complex would be too high, and only 25 feet from residents' backyards.

He said he and other residents want the project to continue since it would be "an economic boom for Des Plaines." But, he said, "they want their voice heard and they want to know the city has their back."

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Chester said the project offers a unique economic opportunity for the city, but it shouldn't be built "ignoring the needs and rights of the citizens who live alongside it."

"At the end of the day, we can't get so eager to push something forward that we trample on people's rights," Chester said.

Palacios said there should be a balance between the prospect of economic development in the area, and what residents have to say about it. He said he is concerned with the potential for property values to decline, but overall favors the redevelopment, which would generate tax revenue for the city.

Walsten supports the project, which he estimates could yield $20 million in city tax revenue if the project is built out, though he's also cautioned that it's only a proposal at this point.

Property owner Robert Kozonis' team of architects and lawyers say it could take up to 20 years for the entire development to come to fruition, and at least a couple years until the first building is constructed.

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