Wilmette’s plan commission voted in favor of a new 64-unit senior memory care facility by Artis Senior Living at 333-357 Ridge Road, where the Wil-Ridge Plaza currently stands on the southwest side of Ridge Road near Wilmette Avenue.
The plan commission’s positive recommendation will go before the village board on December 12 for a final decision on the development.
Like the proposal by Housing Opportunity Development Corporation (“HODC”) for the neighboring property on the former site of the American Legion Post 46, Artis Senior Living applied for a special-use permit through the plan unit development process (“PUD”).
The PUD process provides for more flexible development by design, encouraging the development of amenities in the village, according to John Adler, Director of Community Development for the village. In order to receive zoning relief, an applicant must show some type of benefit to the village.
Artis seeks a number of zoning exceptions relating to landscaping, buffers and lighting, as well as a small FAR increase and a height variation to build a 43 foot tall, 3-story building, instead of the 30 foot 2.5 stories allowed under the zoning laws.
Jim Griffin, attorney for Artis noted that a memory care facility would benefit Wilmette’s aging population, as well as residents whose relatives may require memory care. Since Artis is a for-profit company, it will not receive a property tax exception and will likely pay more taxes than Wil-Ridge Plaza, Griffin said. Artis also plans to donate $20,000 on its first anniversary to Housing Our Own, the Wilmette nonprofit that helps seniors and low-income residents with housing subsidies.
Wil-Ridge Plaza has experienced a decline in retail activity over the years as businesses have struggled to compete with online businesses, according to Dean Pappas, who has owned the property since 1997. It has transitioned from primarily a retail strip mall, to service businesses over the years, but still has vacant storefronts.
“I’ve seen their building and it looks very welcoming. It would make a handsome addition to this important location in Wilmette,” Pappas said.
Artis tried to quell any concerns that the property might turn over quickly. “We build, we own and we operate,” Jay Hicks, Senior Vice President of Development, said.
A few residents and neighbors objected to the project, including Jeff Strange, who owns the neighboring apartment building to the south. He voiced concerns about the lack of landscaping and a proposed vinyl fence that would abut his property. Strange also worried about the traffic, ambient lighting that would shine on his tenants, as well as development so close that it would prevent future development of a vacant lot he owns adjacent to the property.
Wilmette resident Liza Briganca raised her concerns that an institutional development was not appropriate in a residential neighborhood. “Our goal was to get people served in the community, not a large institutional setting,” she said.
Bob Davis, representing the grass-roots group Dry Out West Wilmette objected to any development on the west side of Ridge Road. He urged the village to get a plan to deal with the stormwater problems before approving more development.
Mitch Klein, owner of the gas station across the street from the proposed development raised concerns that the village would lose taxes from retail sales, as well as wave through HODC’s proposed affordable housing development. “If you give them their variances we are going to have HODC coming down our throats. They are going to want their variances,” he said.
While Commissioner Michael Bailey found that the height of the building was consistent with the buildings in the area, Commissioner Homa Ghaemi objected to the building’s height, noting that she had received negative feedback from residents about the height of the new apartment building on Green Bay Road.
The plan commission approved the project 4-1 — Commissioner Jeffrey Head who attended the meeting left before the vote — subject to some conditions. Artis will need improve its buffer to the south by increasing its landscaping on the south side of the building, as well as build a fence that is not made of vinyl material as planned. Commissioner Ghaemi voted against the project, based on its height.
To view Artis’s PUD application go to www.wilmette.com.