Downtown Glen Ellyn

Drama filled Giesche vote as opposition mounts against Apex 400, despite board approval

hillside ave and main st in glen ellyn il

An agreement on Apex 400 has been approved by the Glen Ellyn Village Board, a few weeks after it was unanimously approved by the Village Planning Committee.

However, unlike that last vote, this one was not without some sweet juicy drama.

In the middle of the vote, trustee Mark Senak abruptly resigned from his position and abstained from the vote. He took this opportunity make his displeasure for the project crystal clear:

“History will be the judge of weather this is a good or bad decision for our village. But history will never atone us for the disregard we have shown for our village ordinances, and the work that the people who sat in these chairs who came before us did, as reflected in our village planning documents. But most importantly the feeling of the overwhelming majority of our residents.” – Mark Senak

The village ordinance he’s referring to is one that caps the building height downtown at 45 feet and four stories. As of three weeks ago when the planning committee unanimously approved the project to move forward, the highest point of the new development would be 65 feet at the corners due to architectural elements, but much of the building would be capped at 58 feet.

I can see Senak’s argument that the board and planning committee basically pulled a Cutler and said “don’t care” in response to the village ordinance.

While the height of the highest corners of the building was initially set at 65 feet, that number has been lowered according to the Glen Ellyn press release:

Based on feedback from the community and direction from the Village Board, the Developer agreed to “step down” both the northeast and southeast corners of the project to better transition to adjacent properties.

To illustrate the difference between what the village ordinance allows, and the deviation that is being granted to the developer, here’s an excerpt from the FAQ provided by the village concerning a sunlight study:

Although trustee Mark Senak resigned for the remainder of his term, he will remain on the ballot for the upcoming vote on April 2nd, which will elect a new board of trustees. Senak went on to say:

“I can only hope that when this board is reconstituted after the upcoming elections it will be constituted with a board who respects the rule of law, as well as the work of its predecessors and listen to the concerns of their residents.”

Is the village board really not respecting the “rule of law” here? I don’t see the argument. This was not the first hurdle or the first approval of the deviation. The developer asked for a deviation in their proposal, and it was granted unanimously by the planning committee. It was then voted on by the board and here is how that played out:

  • John Kenwood: Yes
  • Pete Ladesick: Yes
  • Bill Enright: No
  • Gary Fasules: No
  • Craig Pryde: Yes
  • Mark Senak: Abstained
  • President Diane McGinley: Yes

McGinley, who in essence cast the tie-breaking vote, went on to say that the village is looking to add 400 residential units downtown and having more than a quarter of that come from this project was appealing.

“We need about 400 units in this town. This is 107 of those 400 that we have been targeting and have talked about transparently for many, many years. I’m guessing we don’t want to see all 400 in one spot, so we need to take advantage when there’s an opportunity … and do so in a way that allows us to reach our goals.” – Village President Diane McGinley

McGinley also went on to say how welcomed the increased foot traffic will be downtown saying, “we do have businesses that come and look at us and leave, whether it’s because of lack of parking or lack of foot traffic, but those are always the two reasons.”

People have been complaining about a lack of parking in this town as long as I’ve been alive, so adding a net 57 parking spaces with Apex 400 is a huge win for Glen Ellyn.

Those 57 parking spaces are only beneficial though, for those that need to drive to get downtown, so you could imagine that the neighbors close by aren’t too thrilled by this new project.

Katlyn Smith detailed one neighbor’s displeasure in the Daily Herald a couple of weeks ago:

The corner of Main Street and Hillside Avenue provides one of the best views of the downtown that made Jon Brazier want to move to Glen Ellyn more than 20 years ago.

The area’s rolling topography reaches a high point at that corner. To the west is the St. Petronille Parish steeple. Looking south is a tree-lined Main Street with Tudor-style facades and a sense of history.

If built, a proposed five-story apartment complex would dominate that landscape and overshadow one of the downtown’s “tremendous view corridors,” says Brazier, who lives about a block away.

 

Calling it a “tremendous view corridor” may be a bit of a stretch, and what isn’t mentioned above is that to see St. Petronille’s steeple, you have to crane your neck to look over a large vacant building.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of what it currently looks like at Hillside and Main, along with the rendering of the new building:

hillside ave and main st in glen ellyn il

I have been all in favor of this project, but after looking at these two pictures…yeah I wish this new building was just a touch smaller. It does dominate the view in a quite unspectacular way.

Look, I love Glen Ellyn and will expound upon the many great benefits of living near downtown and enjoying all that it has to offer, but let’s be real. While downtown Glen Ellyn has had a nice recent stretch of new businesses opening, and thriving, there are still way too many vacant buildings and annual failed businesses.

The Apex 400 project will be an immediate boost to the economy of every small business operating in downtown Glen Ellyn, and it may keep afloat businesses that otherwise would have closed their doors for good. We’ve seen enough of that in Glen Ellyn over the past few decades.

I understand this is a massive change to the look of the current quaint charm of downtown Glen Ellyn. Change doesn’t usually go over well, especially in a village with a rich history.

Trustee (now former trustee) Mark Senak said that “history will be the judge” of whether or not Apex 400 is a good decision for Glen Ellyn. While the project seems far from perfect, it’s hard for me to see history siding with vacant buildings for much longer.

The developers now have six months to apply for a final approval on the project, so for those who oppose it, there is hope.

My hope, is that we don’t have to look at the empty Giesche Shoe store for much longer.

2 comments on “Drama filled Giesche vote as opposition mounts against Apex 400, despite board approval

  1. Susan Strohmeyer

    Kyle, I enjoyed your article. Thank you for clarifying a lot of the issues and for publishing the side by side renderings.

    Like

    • Thanks, Susan. It’s a difficult topic because while I would really like to see something done there, it’s hard to imagine a building of that size going into that location.

      Like

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