WINNETKA – The Design Review Board voted 4-3 to approve the One Winnetka project, subject to conditions that the west building does meet height, scale, massing and context standards at a meeting on Feb. 18. Board members Peggy Stanley, Bob Dearborn and Paul Konstant voted against the project.
The One Winnetka project continues to be a contentious issue in the village, with some residents welcoming new development in a business district they view as suffering, and others criticizing the size and scale of the project. The west portion of the building will stand at 70 feet tall, making it the tallest building in the village.
During the public comment period, once again residents raised concerns about the height of the building. Mary Hickey, a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, which rejected the project, urged the Design Review Board to also vote against the project. “I am one hundred percent in favor of re-development,” she said. “[But] the volume and scale is not compatible with the surrounding areas.” Kenilworth resident Eleanor Prince also objected to the scale of the project. “I think a 70 foot tall building is excessive. It is enormous,” she said.
And Richard Sobel, son of architect Walter Sobel, who designed the Fell Building that is slated to be torn down, urged the board to consider adaptive re-use. “My dad was a visionary. When he designed this building he designed to have stories added to it,” Sobel said. “It can be an inspiration to meeting the goals of the community.” Sobel has been a fixture at each of the board meetings reviewing the project, speaking out against tearing down his father’s award-winning building.
But the Design Review Board’s discussion primarily focused on whether the building’s height and scale fit within the context of the village. Board member Konstant objected to the building’s height, mass and scale. “I think it is a very handsome building. I have a real problem with the mass of the building and scale,” he said. “I think the scale and the mass is a real concern. I think it takes away from the quaint little village that we have.” Board members Dearborn and Stanley agreed with Konstant’s view of the project.
But while board members Kirk Albinson and Brooke Kelly also raised concerns about the height of the west building, they both voted for the project noting that the Village Council should examine the project’s height. “I do fully support with a strong recommendation that the west elevation be reconsidered,” Albinson said. While Kelly also noted her reservations of the scale of the building. “My biggest concern is height,” she said.
One Winnetka architect Lucien LaGrange explained to the board that the scale of the building was appropriate given the size of the lot. “It’s going to be a landmark. There is no question of that,” he said. “It’s the right scale because it is a long site.”
Only board members Michael Klaskin and John Swierk fully supported the project with no reservations about the height.
Winnetka’s planned development process requires a project to be reviewed by three recommending boards that are appointed by the Village Council: the Plan Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Design Review Board. Each of these boards review the project and make a preliminary recommendation to the Village Council, which makes the final decision.
Next stop: the project will head to the Village Council for review. The Plan Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals have offered differing recommendations. In October, the Plan Commission voted in 8 to 2 in favor of the project. In contrast, in December the Zoning Board voted 5 to 2 against One Winnetka. Now the Design Review Board has made a positive recommendation, but with reservations about the building’s height, massing and scale.