Students rise against high rises


Izzy Lisak, Staffer

As highrises gradually populate Oak Park’s skyline, the village increasingly resembles Chicago.  

Many residents, however, are questioning whether this is beneficial for the community.

Development company Albion Residential is planning a new development on the corner of Lake Street and Forest Avenue. The building will include residential units, parking spaces, and commercial space. The building is currently designed to be 18 stories. However, existing zoning rules only authorize eight stories. Many Oak Park residents worry that because of its height, this building will have negative effects on the community, specifically on the bordering park Austin Gardens.

Laura Stamp is a leading protester against the building. Stamp is a member of the Austin Guards, an organization dedicated to protecting Austin Gardens. Stamp says although Albion Residential designed the building to limit the shadow it casts, the building will still cast a shadow for most of the year. “As the trees get less sunshine, their roots die,” Stamp says. Another concern is the wind tunnel the building will create. Stamp says after the roots die from the shadow, the wind will further damage the trees.

Stamp says the vitality of Austin Gardens is important because there is already limited park space in Oak Park. National standards dictate a community of Oak Park’s size should have 500 acres of green space, but Oak Park only has 82. “Natural, open space is at a premium in an urban suburb like ours,” Stamp says.

With help from Stamp, OPRF’s Environmental Club started a petition to save Austin Gardens. Junior and co-president Isabel Sevilla says Environmental Club is dedicated to “seeking justice and fair treatment for the environment that we live in and striving to do this in any way that we can”

Sevilla cites multiple problems the new development will create. “This shading out of Austin Gardens would effect a third of the tree and plant life in the park, ruin the habitat for the Austin Gardens large squirrel population, disable the use of the new nature center with a solar paneled roof, thwart several summer activities that Austin Gardens holds, and overcrowd local elementary schools, which are already at maximum capacity,” says Sevilla.

For the building to go up as planned, the Village Board of Trustees will make a final decision at a meeting not yet scheduled. By spreading the word about the possible dangers of the building, Environmental Club hopes to limit the Albion development to eight stories. “Myself and a couple of friends took to the sidewalks of Austin Gardens with signs, talking to pedestrians and answering questions with our neon green signs and advertising at school events,” Sevilla says.

Stamp encourages concerned citizens to contact the Village Board of Trustees and the mayor with any concerns or comments about this issue. “What we need now is awareness and a community coming together and speaking up for what really is right for our town and local environment,” Sevilla says.