For seven years the gas station at Fairview and 2nd Street in Downers Grove has been vacant. Now, with overgrown landscape and a building covered with graffiti, it’s a general eyesore. Located just down the street from our office, it’s a very familiar location. Our firm, Studio21 Architects, has been approached several times by developers trying to develop this site. In our previous investigation regarding this property we reviewed the zoning ordinance and the village comprehensive plan. One past developer proposed a retail development, another a mixed-use building. However, based on our analysis, the site isn’t large enough to support the necessary parking.
Providing successful design for land developers and business owners in Illinois
As an architect, it’s my job to offer solutions to my clients whether they are homeowners, business owners, or land developers. When the latest developer approached our firm, we encouraged the decision to develop the property as multifamily housing. The site is the perfect location for this – it’s adjacent to the METRA train station making commuting easy for people looking to live in the suburbs with a connection to the city. Although COVID-19 has minimized the daily commute to the city, we will eventually see a return to the need for the daily commute or the convenience of the train to enjoy the restaurants and other amenities of the city.
With years of experience and expertise, we successfully gained approval from the Plan Commission and Village Council for this Planned Unit Development. We proposed a land-use plan and building design for developing the site with 18 apartments including parking and garage rental space. We provided more units than the developer originally requested, exceeding expectations. It’s a great fit for the residential neighborhood and aligns with future land plans for the village.
We’ll be adding more landscaping than currently exists and the parking lot will buffer and back up to the commuter parking lot. Our three-story building is expected to be a catalyst for further development in the area. It is an aesthetically contemporary design and has been enthusiastically received by the neighbors, the Plan Commission and the Village Board. This is ultimately a win for both the developer and the community.
Listening to the community
In all cases when we need to obtain municipal approval, it is important to understand the intent of zoning as well as the village long range planning and development guidelines. Prior to any public meetings, we organize a meeting with the neighbors in the community to listen to their concerns and show them the 3D renderings, allowing them to have a feel for what’s proposed. This has been an integral part of our process for years, resulting in success where others have failed. We take time to anticipate questions that might arise and consider answers to alleviate the issues. It’s critical for the neighbors to voice their opinions, but even more important for them to get to know the developer, who in this situation is a local builder.
The developer is a real person with a vested interest to improve the community. He is not the evil, big, bad wolf who just wants to make a profit. This neighborhood meeting is the perfect opportunity to open discussions, allow for comments, and connect on a personal level. People are glad that they’ve been invited to participate, to be heard and to have their suggestions considered and in some cases implemented. Whether it’s an issue of additional traffic, noise or stormwater drainage, we want to prevent issues that will affect the current lifestyle of the neighbors. At Studio21 Architects, we believe this is what good architecture is all about. We will provide not only what is best for our client, the developer, but also for the neighborhood and the village staff, now and for the future.