As many Winnetka residents are aware, our devoted team of real estate development professionals has been working diligently to bring a vision for an enhanced and enlivened downtown Winnetka to life. Our approach begins with the development of One Winnetka in place of the largest, most blighted portion of downtown. On Monday night, the Village Zoning Board of Appeals delivered a 4-2 vote against recommending the project to the Village Council. This recommendation came on the heels of the recent “thumbs up” recommendation that the Panning Commission made with an 8-2 vote months earlier.
Winnetka is governed by our Village Board of Trustees, and they have the ultimate authority to decide the fate of One Winnetka, after they weigh all the recommendations that have been submitted by the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Design Board of Review.
One Winnetka will provide modern amenities, retail, restaurant, and lifestyle offerings that will prove attractive to residents for decades to come. However, there continues to be a vocal minority of dissenters who expound the fear of what can come with change. We are bolstered by the support of the 400 Winnetka residents who have taken time out of their lives to speak on behalf of this project with signed petitions, letter writing, and open house attendance. They believe in the energy and evolution that is being proposed and understand that our best interests are shared. We believe that most residents agree with them.
We remain steadfast that the truths of our development to be weighed against the misconceptions. We respectfully ask for the Trustee’s approval so construction can commence early this summer and be completed by the end of 2017.
I submit this letter with hopes to set the record straight. It is clear by the issues raised by the Zoning Board of Appeals, that misconceptions remain.
Misconception #1: Lincoln Avenue will be closed to traffic and/or will only allow one-way traffic.
Fact: Lincoln Avenue will be open to two-way traffic on a daily basis. We envision Lincoln Avenue as a community destination that can easily be closed off for markets, festivals, or other community gatherings.
Misconception #2: The height of the development is 7 stories.
Fact: The height of the development has been reduced by over 20% to a 4-story residential building on the east and a 5-story building, plus a penthouse on the west.
Misconception #3:One Winnetka will be entirely comprised of rental units.
Fact: The current design of One Winnetka consists of 18 for-sale condominiums in the east building as well as 5 for-sale townhomes along Elm Street.
Misconception #4: One Winnetka development is too large.
Fact:The One Winnetka development is made up of three, very distinct structures that sit above private residential parking. Each building will have its own identity through different design, look and name. Each of these buildings has for example, a smaller footprint than Oak Hill located at 711 Oak Street, (located immediately to the south). In addition, the entire square footage of the development as contemplated is more than 30% smaller than if the parcels as they currently stand were developed “by-right” one by one.
Misconception #5: The underground commuter and retail overflow parking facility will be dark and unsafe.
Fact:The proposed underground parking is exposed to open air and natural light along the entire length of the west wall at both levels. At night, the parking spaces will be brightly lit and monitored by a state- of-the-art security system.
Misconception #6: The Village does not need additional parking and the cost is too great.
Fact:Winnetka’s empty retail storefronts and limited restaurant and retail choices are a direct result of the insufficient parking. Business owners are taking their rent dollars elsewhere and dining and shopping venues in Evanston, Skokie, Glenview, Highland Park and Wilmette are pulling customers away with them. We are losing valuable retail revenue and sales tax that the Village of Winnetka can use!
Moreover, One Winnetka is offering to share the cost of the underground commuter public parking garage with the Village, greatly reducing the cost born by the Village from a “do-it-yourself” cost per spot of $35,000 to an estimated $18,000 per spot in the proposed private/public partnership.
Misconception #7: One Winnetka’s design is not fitting with the look and feel of the Village.
Fact:When it comes to matters of design, the issue becomes a bit more subjective as it is a matter of personal preference. That said, One Winnetka’s north-facing town homes on Elm Street will consist of designs that emulate and enhance Elm Street’s look and character. The architectural styles will echo what is found throughout the Village including Tudor, Georgian, and Neo-Classical styles. It is in our shared best interest that One Winnetka visually compliments its surroundings such as the Village Hall.
Misconception #8: Commuter drop-off is more confusing and the entrance way to the parking garage will impede traffic on Lincoln Avenue.
Fact: Currently, commuter drop-off is unorganized and haphazard. Our design seeks to create centralized and organized drop-off options along with a well-designed up/down ramp to the underground parking. This will enhance the safety for commutersand drivers alike.
Additionally, the number of curb cuts will be reduced from 4 to 2 on Elm Street. This will enhance crossing safety for Hadley students and all pedestrians. Also, the reduction of curb cuts will enable the village to designate two new handicap accessible spots on Elm Street, where none currently exist.
Misconception #9: The loading dock will be noisy and will result in traffic congestion and the smell of garbage.
Fact:Currently, there are 10 separate loading and garbage collection areas serving existing buildings on the future site of One Winnetka. Five of these are on-street receptacles, resulting in substantial traffic congestion and safety concerns on Elm and Lincoln streets.
The One Winnetka development will centralize these functions in a secluded off street location, accessed from Lincoln Ave. It will be hidden from view, fully enclosed, and will be climate and odor controlled.
Misconception #10: Flooding will worsen in the downtown area.
Fact:The opposite is true. An underground retention system will be installed to collect all storm-water generated by the property. This will help alleviate the historic flooding issues occurring in this area by substantially reducing the impact on the storm-water infrastructure from the site nearby and down towards Sheridan Road.
Misconception #11: The project contains too much retail/restaurant space.
Fact:Current retail space in the One Winnetka footprint totals 40,761 sq. feet (including 3,000 sq. feet at basement level). Proposed retail space totals 43,145 sq. feet, above grade, featuring well-appointed spaces with high ceilings, meeting the modern needs of today’s most discerning retailers and patrons.
Misconception #12: The east building “looms” over the 4 homes on Maple Street.
Fact: The east building will have a far less impact on the 4 homes on Maple than 711 Oak currently does. While the buildings are the same height, the east building of One Winnetka is 85 feet farther away from the 4 back yards than 711 Oak and approximately 200 feet farther away from the homes.
In conclusion, the One Winnetka team would like to thank the Planning, Zoning, and Design Boards for their civic service to the community. With more than 10 public hearings under our belt, we will continue to push forward to make this a project we can all be proud of. While it is a complicated endeavor, the project is designed to embrace and reflect the rich history and culture of Winnetka while solving some of our current shortcomings. Our voice will prevail when it matters most. The fear of change is a powerful force, especially when we have something as precious as the history and personality of Winnetka to protect.
If any resident would like to ask questions about the planned development or share their support for our efforts, I encourage them to do so by submitting a letter addressed to the Design Board and the Village Board of Trustees at firstname.lastname@example.org or contacting us by visiting our website at www.One Winnetka.com.
David M. Trandel