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Ideas / August 14, 2021

Attorney Paul Kolpak, representing the would-be developer Piotr Filipek and 1440 Higgins LLC, and Guido Neri of Neri Architects, laid out a vision for the 2.19-acre site of Mr. K Garden and Material Center during a meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission on May 9.

The concept plan, as presented to the commission, called for 34, three-story townhouses on the property at 1440 Higgins Road, which is east of Dee Road and on the north side of Park Ridge's border with Chicago. The developer has also discussed the possibility of widening Peterson Avenue to the north of the property and adding a parkway and public sidewalks, Neri said.

Currently, Peterson is a narrow, one-way street behind the garden center, with a parkway and sidewalks only on the north side of the road, where single-family homes are located.

If the project goes to the Planning and Zoning Commission as a formal proposal, it will require a zoning change from general commercial to multifamily residential, City Planner Jon Branham said. Exceptions will also be required for density, as no more than 31 units would be allowed under the city's zoning ordinance; for height, as the homes would stand 3.5 feet higher than the code allows; and for front and rear yard setbacks, Branham said.

The prospective developer will also need to convince planning and zoning commissioners, as well as the City Council, that a residential development should be approved for the site.

Under the city's Higgins Road Corridor Plan, developed in 2008 and updated in 2010, Mr. K Garden and Material Center is identified as a prime site for a mix of office and commercial development, Branham said.

Some commissioners on May 9 agreed.

"The city's vision for this corridor is different than what you're planning, " Commissioner John Bennett told the development team, suggesting an alternative to townhouses.

"I think Park Ridge needs some hotels, " he said. "This is a nice commercial property where we could build a low-rise hotel …. I would prefer that over this residential development."

During the 2009 Park Ridge mayoral race, the late mayor David Schmidt, running for his first term, had expressed a desire to see a hotel of no more than three stories on the Mr. K's site, if it ever became available.

Bennett also asked if the interested developer would consider a "mixed use" project of residential and commercial on the property, which is book-ended by office buildings.

"From a mixed-use standpoint, it would have to be either condos or apartments [above], " Neri said. "Either way, financially it just doesn't work. The cost of the site is very high, and there's really no financing available today for condo buildings in today's market."

Commissioner James Hanlon said he disagreed with Neri's conclusion that financing would be too difficult, though he later said that commercial development "might be overly optimistic."

"I don't think it's the end of the world if we have residential there, " he said, adding that there is "probably a better plan" than what was presented to the commission.

Source: www.chicagotribune.com