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Elmhurst Park District opposes LA Fitness

ELMHURST – A developer plans to replace the closed Waverton Hotel with an LA Fitness, Starbucks and other retail store fronts, but the Elmhurst Park District doesn’t support the plan.

“This development is not a true prime retail development as called for in the city’s comprehensive plan in regards to the redevelopment on York Road,” said Jim Rogers, the Park District’s executive director.

Paragon Elmhurst Center LLC, the contract purchaser of the property at 624 N. York St., presented its case for a conditional use permit and associated variances request for the project April 17 to the Zoning and Planning Commission.

The company wants a conditional use permit for a drive-thru at the proposed Starbucks as well as a number of variations, including a reduction in required parking and sign requirements.

In addition, Paragon would take over a parking lease agreement with Mariano’s. The grocery store north of Industrial Drive leases 48 parking spaces for employee use on the northeast corner of the empty property. Paragon plans to take on the parking lease – effective through 2033 – but move the employee parking back from York Street to the northwest corner of the property. This would grant Mariano’s 56 spaces and make room on York Street for the retail building.

While the commission is charged with evaluating the zoning requests, Rogers took the opportunity to voice the Park District’s opposition during the public hearing.

“Is this development the overall highest and best use of this crucial TIF property given that the proposed health club facility will generate minimal sales tax?” Rogers asked.

He said as one of the taxing bodies impacted by TIF IV where the development would fall, the Park District also was concerned about the equalized assessed value of the proposed development.

Paragon proposes to build a 45,000-square-foot LA Fitness and a separate 8,000-square-foot retail building, which would house Starbucks and two or three other service retail stores.

The proposed project would supply a total of 376 parking spaces, including 288 for LA Fitness, 32 for the retail building and the 56 Mariano’s employees spaces. City code requires 10 spaces per 1,000 square feet for a fitness facility. Paragon’s plan would supply 6.4 spaces per 1,000 square feet for LA Fitness based on the chain’s previous experience in the Chicago area.

“The code ... was put in place specifically to address fitness centers of this nature,” Rogers said.

Than Werner, the city’s zoning and planning administrator, explained the city previously increased the fitness facility parking requirements from four to 10 per 1,000 square feet after a facility at North Avenue and Route 83 did not have adequate parking. Werner added the city did not have real time statistics like those provided by Paragon when the code was changed.

When asked, Rogers also said he would consider the LA Fitness a primary competitor to Courts Plus, which is 90,000 square feet and shares 330 parking spaces with Plunkett Park visitors from the Park District and Immaculate Conception.

Scott Day, an attorney at Day & Robert P.C. representing Paragon, explained Courts Plus represents how shared parking can bring down the overall demand. He also said he believed the equalized assessed value would increase with the new fitness facility, retail and landscaped parking lot.

“Part of the reason that this area has been approved for redevelopment is that you have a stagnation in the area,” Day said.

The Zoning a Planning Commission plans to deliberate May 8 on the application, which also asks for a parking setback variation on the south property line and two sign variations.

Next meeting

The Zoning a Planning Commission plans to discuss Paragon’s application at the May 8 meeting.

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