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Commission supports LA Fitness proposal

ELMHURST – Despite concerns raised by the Elmhurst Park District, a developer's request for parking and sign variations to build an LA Fitness, Starbucks and other retail storefronts in place of the Waverton Hotel won support from the Zoning and Planning Commission last week.

"I think people on the north side are very interested in this kind of facility," commissioner Susan Rose said.

The commission is charged with evaluating the zoning requests, but during an April 24 public hearing on the matter the Park District Executive Director Jim Rogers stated the district's concerns about the equalized assessed value of the proposed development and that a different development may generate more tax revenue in the TIF IV district.

Rose believed the developer, Paragon Elmhurst Center LLC, provided enough evidence that the city would get a reasonable return from the property compared to other uses.

Paragon proposes to build a 45,000-square-foot LA Fitness and a separate 8,000-square-foot retail building, which would house a Starbucks with a drive-thru 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 spaces to be leased to Mariano’s for employee parking.

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.

"To hold them to that 10 [spaces] per thousand, I think it's complete overkill," commissioner Brendan Hill said.

He pointed out that he still supported the city's requirement because it applied to denser gyms like XSport Fitness, but the proposed LA Fitness would contain much larger areas within the building, such as pools or sports courts.

In response to the sign variations, Rose stated the property presents unique challenges in that respect because of its proximity to Interstate 290.

She added that the development seemed to follow some of the goals discussed during a North York Plan visioning workshop.

"This is really a lot of what they envisioned that could be here," Rose said.

The commission voted unanimously to recommend the city approve Paragon's requests. The commission's report will go to the Development, Planning and Zoning Committee next.

"I think it's a great plan, and I think that it will continue to assist in the development of the remaining part of this area," commissioner Lisa Callaway said.

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