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Dominican brings plans before panel

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Dominican University officials last week presented plans for a proposed parking garage, academic building and Thatcher Avenue access drive to the Village's Development Review Board.

Public comment and DRB deliberation on the plans are scheduled to take place at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6 in the Community Room at Village Hall, 400 Park Ave.

The review board's Sept. 15 session ended following Dominican's presentations at 10 p.m., under the review board's own rules. One member of the audience objected that public comment wasn't taken during the meeting.

Review board member Dennis McMahon, filling in for Chairman Frank Martin, said the objection was noted.

Dominican's schedule calls for the removal of five trees from the disputed Thatcher Avenue triangle to begin in October or November, to make way for the planned access road. Once the road is in place, the university further plans to create temporary parking on the recreation field at Park Avenue and Division Street.

Two Cook County Board members argue that ownership of the triangle, for decades thought to be part of Thatcher Woods Forest preserve, still must be resolved before the access road plan proceeds.

Construction on all three projects is planned to wrap up by August 2007, for use starting in the fall term.

Dominican University President Donna Carroll said the university is in the middle of a $50 million silent fundraising campaign, and has collected $24 million so far. The three projects are expected to cost $45 million, Carroll said.

The proposed 550-space Gothic style parking garage would have five levels, four above ground.

The university seeks a 1.3 foot height variance for the garage's elevator shaft. Lighting on top of the building would be reduced by 50 percent after 8 p.m., and include light shields to reduce glare.

The 123,000-square-foot academic building also seeks a height variance, 15 feet higher than the 60 feet allowed by code. The building would have a stone exterior like Centennial Hall, the universities newest residence hall.

Thatcher Avenue access is being treated as a separate project. The access drive, which will lead from Thatcher Avenue to the proposed 550-space parking garage, has been a topic of debate between the University and two Cook County Forest Preserve commissioners because the drive would cross a section of restored woodland long thought to belong to the Forest Preserve.

Dominican claims they own the portion along Thatcher Avenue where they propose installing the access drive.

The university proposes closing Greenfield Street and Park Avenue access drives if the Thatcher access is approved.

Village attorney Jonathan Gilbert advised DRB members last week that the ownership debate is between the university and the Forest Preserve District.

The village must decide whether to allow a curb cut for the access drive, he said.

The village also could require the university to maintain the sidewalk on either side of the drive.

Traffic consultants for Dominican University and the village didn't agree on the configuration of the access drive.

The village's traffic consultant recommended narrowing Thatcher Avenue to three lanes and restricting no left turns onto Thatcher from the access drive.

A university's consultant recommends allowing vehicles to turn left onto Thatcher.

Stop signs would also be installed for drivers coming out of the access drive onto Thatcher, under Dominican's plan.

DRB member James Levy said he lives near Thatcher and Greenfield, and is concerned about creating another access road onto Thatcher Avenue.

DRB member David Berni said he's concerned about traffic flow and that there won't be adequate gaps in traffic to allow traffic to turn onto Thatcher Avenue from the proposed access drive.

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