WINNETKA – A majority of Winnetka Plan Commissioners appear to support the latest One Winnetka plan proposed for the village’s East Elm business district. During a discussion at their meeting on August 26, five of the commissioners expressed support of the project while three objected.
Commissioners Dana Fattore Crumley and Jeanne Morette were absent, but Chairwoman Tina Dalman noted that both commissioners have voiced views in support of the plan development. Commissioner John Golan was also absent.
At the meeting, Stonestreet Partners LLC sought to clarify what it considers to be the public benefits provided by the One Winnetka project located on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Elm Street, the site of the former Fell Department Store. The proposed mixed-use development is a 70-foot-high, six-story building featuring rental apartments on the upper floors, underground parking and retail space on the first and second floors.
Stonestreet’s planning consultant George Kisiel presented an overview of the project’s public benefits. Mainly, Stonestreet asserts that improvements to the village’s infrastructure create a public benefit, such as additional parking, improved streetscape, additional open space on Lincoln Avenue, stormwater management and water supply upgrades.
David Trandel, Stonestreet’s CEO, submitted a letter to the Plan Commission dated August 26 that outlines the costs to the village if it entered into a “public and private partnership” with the developer.
Stonestreet is proposing that Winnetka pay a total of $4,470,000 for additional commuter/retail parking in an underground garage and $1,143,900 for the developer’s land for the garage. The village would also pay $1,500,000 for a public plaza on Lincoln Avenue, $200,000 for streetscape on Lincoln and Elm Streets, and $225,000 for water main improvements on Elm Street.
Kisiel provided slides picturing a four-story building that complies with the village’s zoning ordinance. He maintained that the proposed six-story building is a better option. “We believe this configuration provides a better solution to the site than a straight zoning solution allows,” he said.
During the public comment period, residents continued to object to the size and scale of the project and also expressed dismay over the proposed costs to the village.
“We are being asked to subsidize them to great advantage to them. They are taking too much,” Winnetka resident Michael Leviton said.
Winnetka resident Gwen Trindle questioned the village’s contribution to the parking garage. “It will cost $4.5 million to the village,” she said. “It doesn’t sound like a fair exchange. That is a lot of money. I am really baffled.”
Richard Sobel, whose father Walter Sobel designed the Fell Building, encouraged the developer to incorporate the original Fell Building into its plans, rather than tear it down. Eleanor Prince, a Kenilworth resident who lives in a Walter Sobel-designed house, also advocated for preservation of the Fell Building.
“It is important to have architecture from every decade. The Fell structure is a very fine example of modern architecture,” she said.
When the meeting turned to the Plan Commission’s discussion, tension rose among commissioners as they shared opposing views on the project. Commissioner Paul Dunn supported the project with no apparent reservations.
“The design is in the eye of the beholder I happen to love it,” he said.
Commissioner Dunn opined that the downtown area can handle the proposed height and density, while it was in desperate need of revitalization. “It is time for Winnetka to invest in the downtown,” he said.
While Chair Tina Dalman expressed reservations about the project’s height and the burden on Elm Street, she supported the project. “I really do think this project is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan,” she said.
But commissioners Louise Holland, Jan Bawden and Jack Coladarci were against the project, mainly objecting to its height and bulk. “It will become the landmark building of the village,” Commissioner Coladarci remarked.
While making no final decision at the meeting, the Plan Commission did approve a motion to direct village staff to draft the findings of fact consistent with the discussion at the meeting. The Plan Commission will submit a written document that includes its conclusions and recommendation support by facts to the Village Council once it has made a final decision.
The next Plan Commission meeting is scheduled for September 23, 7:30 pm at the Village Hall.