No recommendation yet on controversial downtown Des Plaines apartment building plan

Public discussion on proposal in Des Plaines will continue in May

  • An architectural rendering shows a 131-unit apartment building proposed for the corner of Webford and Graceland avenues in downtown Des Plaines.

    An architectural rendering shows a 131-unit apartment building proposed for the corner of Webford and Graceland avenues in downtown Des Plaines. Courtesy of Des Plaines

  • A developer has proposed constructing a 131-unit apartment building in Des Plaines where the Journal & Topics Media Group now operates.

      A developer has proposed constructing a 131-unit apartment building in Des Plaines where the Journal & Topics Media Group now operates. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/13/2022 8:54 PM

After listening to concerned residents during a public hearing Tuesday night, Des Plaines' planning and zoning board postponed making a recommendation on a controversial plan for a seven-story apartment building near the downtown district.

Instead, the public discussion will continue May 10.

 

Traffic, safety and even the preservation of historic art were among the issues raised by audience members during the hearing, which lasted nearly three hours.

Planning board members had questions about the $35 million proposal, too.

A 131-unit apartment building with a public restaurant and bar has been proposed for 622 Graceland Ave.

The Journal & Topics Media Group and a public parking lot occupy the land now. The Journal & Topics operation likely would relocate elsewhere in Des Plaines if the project progresses, the media outlet has reported.

Barrington-based Compasspoint Development is behind the proposal. According to plans, the 187,000-square-foot building would have a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.

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Compasspoint's Joe Taylor predicted the building would draw 140 to 150 residents, each making $60,000 to $120,000 annually based on anticipated rent prices. Those folks will have disposable income and will want to shop in the neighborhood, he said.

The site is a short walk from the downtown train station, which would be attractive to potential tenants, Taylor said.

The proposed restaurant and bar, which Taylor said he'd operate, would occupy portions of the first two floors.

After Taylor and his team completed their presentation Tuesday, planning board member Rebecca Fowler asked why the developer wants to build a large apartment building instead of condominiums, townhouses or row houses.

"It seems to me you're trying to jam in a huge building in a small space," she said, getting applause from the audience.

In response, Taylor said demand exists for rental properties and an apartment building is more financially feasible for his group.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Author David W. Gates Jr. was among the first people to speak during public comments. An expert in Great Depression-era murals at U.S. post offices, Gates said the Journal & Topics building once was a post office and contains two such murals. He asked what steps will be taken to protect that artwork.

Local resident Paul Beranek was concerned about traffic and the safety of children in the neighborhood.

Former 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Beauvais acknowledged the site should be redeveloped but called for common sense.

"We want redevelopment," she said. "But this is just too much."

Resident Josh Kurutz also was concerned about traffic and supported saving the murals but generally favored the plan and the idea of more people living downtown.

Compasspoint is requesting variances from the city's building codes concerning landscaping and other issues, and for three parcels there to be consolidated into one. Those and other requests require reviews by the planning board and the city council.

The planning board's May 10 meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at city hall, 1420 Miner St.

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