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Oak Park Tourism-Cultural Park
A proposal to the Village of Oak Park for
Development of the Harlem-Ontario Site

Les Golden, Ph.D, Creative Partner

Oak Park Citizens Advisory Committee

David Adler
Elaine Kostopulos


Submitted October 18, 2004 to the Village of Oak Park, Illinois


Holley Court Commercial Partners proposes a multi-use development for the 53,000 square foot parcel located at the southeast corner of Ontario Street and Harlem Avenue and the adjacent 11,000 square foot property southward along Harlem Avenue in Oak Park, Illinois. It consists of a banquet hall, restaurants, night clubs, galleries, studios, and workshops, offices, a secretarial pool, retail, multi-family residential units, and a 24,000 square foot performing arts center. This will be located within a park-like decorative environment amenable to cultural activities. Parking for 450 cars will be constructed at street level under the Park, underground, and as an additional level to the existing Holley Court parking garage.

The estimated cost for the development is $17.8 million. Of this, $1.8 million is for shell construction of the performing arts center, for which corporate sponsorship and foundation grants will be sought. We propose that the Village of Oak Park collect an amusement tax on ticket sales at the performing arts center, half of which would be directed toward the village general fund and half of which would be directed to operating expenses. Total annual revenues from property tax, sales tax, liquor license fees, and an amusement tax is estimated to be $1.50 million.

In 1994, a version of the development was proposed for the Lake Street-North Blvd. site in Oak Park. At that time, letters of intent were received from numerous restauranteurs and two prominent night clubs, Wacko's and the Bop Shop. That indicated to the developers the viability of the concept.

In 2002, a smaller version of the development was proposed for the Ontario Street and Harlem Avenue location. At that time, letters of intent were received from additional entrepreneurs, including Oak Park's Marion Street Deli.

In the following, we will discuss land use and building type, land improvement, synergy with a Maple Furrier development, parking, cost analysis, financing, revenue generation, and benefits to the community. We will compare this proposal, including revenue generation, to the proposed Whiteco development. A preliminary rendering of the site is appended (Appendix A).

This site plan is conceptual only, and the mix of buildings and other amenities should be considered as indicating the concept of the Park rather than a final design.

Holley Court Commercial Partners is pleased to be able to present signed leases by a number of enterprises. This indicates the interest in becoming part of the development in the commercial/cultural sector (see Appendix B).


Holley Court Commercial Partners' "Golden Garden's Restaurant Park" (the Park), a tourism-cultural park, consists of a mix of buildings that acts as a "destination," attracting local residents, those from the greater Chicagoland area, and tourists.

These include a multi-use banquet hall (banquet hall, conference center, concert hall), restaurants, night clubs, galleries, studios, and workshops, offices, a secretarial pool, retail, multi-family residential units, and a 24,000 square foot performing arts center. The retail shops include support for the banquet hall, such as a florist shop, gift shop, and greeting card shop. We propose moving the Oak Park Tourism Office from its present inconspicuous, low-traffic location on Forest Avenue to the Park and complementing it with the performing arts center ticket office and a commercial ticket broker.

The 12 restaurants are on the ground level, in 3 pavilions of 4 restaurants each around a central plaza. These pavilions are, tentatively, a Continental Pavilion, an Oriental Pavilion, and a Mediterranean Pavilion. The central plaza is landscaped in the motif of the given geographical area and is the center for cultural activities and celebrations relevant to these geographical areas such as Bastille Day, Greek Easter, the Chinese New Year, Oktoberfest, and the Running of the Bulls as well as art fairs, live performances, and other cultural activities. It is a park dedicated to the celebration of Oak Park's diverse cultures. Outdoor dining is amply available. Rooftop seating is available in a garden environment. The retail stores and valet parking are also on the ground level.

The second level of the proposed southeast pavilion houses the multi-use banquet hall, night clubs, art galleries, studios, and workshops, offices, and the secretarial pool. The third and fourth levels house 18 loft apartments, of 1000 and 1250 square feet. These residential units are in a quiet location, set off from the streets adjacent to the Park and west of the Holley Court Retirement Center and its parking lot.

A three-story 24,000 square foot performing arts center contains theatres of 100, 250, and 500 seats on its first two floors, and classrooms, offices, and storage space on the third. It connects to the multi-use banquet hall/conference center/concert hall by an enclosed pedestrian way. This essentially allows use of the performing arts center as an extension of the conference center.

The bottom level provides 300 parking spaces, and space for mechanical, electrical, delivery, and garbage disposal. Access to the site for delivery and garbage collection is from Harlem Avenue eastward along the southern border of the Park adjacent to the Holley Court garage. Much of the servicing of the site is via this bottom level, causing a minimum of visual and auditory disruption to the neighbors to the north and the Holley Court Retirement Plaza to the east.


The buildings are set in a decorative landscape. Over brick footing are a wrought-iron archway, a 35-foot diameter fountain, an Oak Park Walk of Fame to honor distinguished community members, a formal 400-plant rose garden, lighting, tables and chairs, benches, bushes, and trees, with suitable irrigation. Each plaza also includes foliage, fountains, ponds, foot-bridges, and decorative items appropriate to the given geographical area.


Depending on the progress of the development proposed for the Maple Furrier/parking lot site, the art galleries, studios, and workshops, offices, and the secretarial pool would be suggested for that site with pedestrian-way connecting Lake Street to the Park. This would free the second floor of the southeast pavilion for an additional 9 residential units.


Parking is constructed for 450 cars. This includes an additional level on the Holley Court parking structure, which is feasible structurally, and underground parking for 300 cars, 150 at street level below the elevated southern half of the Park, and 150 underground below the performing arts center and the Holley Court parking structure. This design does not increase the footprint of parking, utilizing the existing Holley Court parking structure and using the air above the underground parking for the southern portion of the Park and the performing arts center.


Current projected costs for the project is approximately $10.5 million. Land acquisition is a reciprocal purchase through the downtown Tax Increment Financing district of the Village of Oak Park. The estimates for construction are based on shell construction of 12-2500 square-foot restaurants, 3-2500 square-foot nightclubs, a multi-use banquet hall of 5000 square feet, a 24,000 square-foot performing arts center, and office/retail/residential space with a combined area of 30,000 square feet at a cost of $75/square-foot. The total size is 96,500 square feet. The cost of above-ground and underground parking spaces are taken to be $18,000/space and $25,000/space, respectively.

The cost breakdown is as follows.

Shell Construction Area Breakdown

a. 3-2500 sq. ft. night clubs (7500 sq. ft.)
b. 12-2500 sq. ft. restaurants (30,000 sq. ft.)
c. multi-use banquet hall (5000 sq. ft.)
d. offices/galleries (10,000 sq. ft.)
e. loft apartments (20,000 sq. ft)
f. retail (4000 sq. ft.)
g. performing arts center (24,000 sq. ft.)

Total area = 100,500 sq. ft.
Shell construction cost = 100,500 sq. ft. @ $75/sq. ft. = $7,538,000*

Of the $7.538 million for shell construction, $1.8 million is for the performing arts center, for which corporate sponsorship and foundation grants will be sought.

Cost Breakdown

1. Road access construction $ 35,000
2. Demolition and removal 20,000
3. Landscaping 750,000
4. Design and engineering 300,000
5. Above-ground parking (300 spaces) 5,400,000
6. Underground parking (150 spaces) 3,750,000
7. Building shell construction 7,538,000*

TOTAL $17,800,000

Outfitting the restaurants and banquet hall with refrigeration, mechanical, electrical, garbage cooling, and other relevant factors increase the cost of building construction. The total of $17.8 million so derived is close to an estimate obtained by combining the footprint area of the site, 64,000 square feet, with a development cost of $200/square foot, or $16.6 million, in which we have included the $3.75 million cost of underground parking. This provides confidence in the former estimate.


Full financing has not been accomplished. The Park may be incorporated, with the sale of shares generating a significant portion of this revenue. The performing arts center will be organized as a non-profit corporation and will be funded largely by corporate and foundation funding. Its resultant property tax-exempt status will enable performing arts groups to thrive in the location without that financial burden.

Although in keeping with our philosophy we prefer local financing, an internet website ( has been established for the project and its address has been emailed to a substantial database of venture capital and finance groups across the county. A complete demographic analysis of the area from Claritas Inc. within 1, 3, and 5 miles of the Park is available to these potential equity partners.


The Park generates revenue for Oak Park from four sources, property tax, sales tax, liquor license fees, and an amusement tax.

1. Property tax revenue

Having the guideline of $6/square-foot of property taxes in a commercial site, for the 72,500 square feet of commercial space (excluding residential and the performing arts center) we obtain an estimate of $435,000/year. Taking as representative a guideline of $4/square-foot of property taxes in a typical Oak Park residential area, the 18 loft apartments will generate property taxes of $80,000/year. The total property tax generation is $515,000/year.

2. Sales tax revenue

Moderate sized restaurants generate $40,000/week, with approximately 20% of that amount from liquor sales. Based on Oak Park collecting a 2% sales tax and an additional 3% liquor tax, the estimated restaurant sales tax revenue is $650,000, and the estimated banquet hall sales tax revenue is about $20,000. The three night clubs together are estimated to generate $225,000 in liquor sales tax. Based on a $250,000 sales per store, four retail stores are estimated to generate $20,000 in sales tax annually. Adding these figures, the total sales tax revenue from the Park is estimated to be $915,000 annually.

3. Liquor licenses

The liquor license fee in Oak Park is $2500 annually. The restaurants, night clubs, and banquet hall generate $40,000 in fees annually.

4. Performing arts center revenues

Operating as a non-profit corporation, revenues generated from ticket sales will be used for operating expenses. We propose that the Village of Oak Park collect a 2% amusement tax on ticket sales at the performing arts center, half of which would be directed to the village general fund and half of which would be directed to operating expenses. Although it is difficult to estimate revenue from ticket sales, we can provide two cases. The total seating capacity is 850 seats. We assume each venue is utilized for concerts, performances, and lectures 1/2 of the time with a 1/3 occupancy. Using $20 for a typical ticket price, we obtain 850 x 1/2 x 1/3 x 365 x $20 = $1,034,000 in sales. The annual amusement tax revenue would then be about $20,000. The experience of Oak Park Festival Theatre indicates that concessions would yield $300,000 in sales. The 2% sales tax would generate $6,000 on those sales. The total revenue generated by the performing arts center would then be $26,000.

5. Total revenues.

Total annual revenues from property tax, sales tax, liquor license fees, and an amusement tax is estimated to be $1.50 million.


Nearly all the principals and associates in the project are from Oak Park. We utilize Oak Park residents -- who know the community, its needs, and its challenges intimately -- for marketing, engineering, architecture, contractor, and creative.

Including art galleries, studios, and workshops, offices, a secretarial pool, and the performing arts center in the Park satisfies the long-held desire for arts organizations in Oak Park for proximate offices and facilities. This will undoubtedly aid their vitality. (See Appendix C.)

As a "destination," the Park provides a bona fide tourist attraction. Marketing in airline magazines and in downtown hotels encourage visitors to ride the elevated train to Oak Park, take architectural tours, dine in the Park, attend concerts and performances there, remain in the Park for night club entertainment or drinks, and stay overnight at the Carleton Hotel, the Wright Inn, or the many beds and breakfast in the area. Oak Park will finally have a means to keep the Frank Lloyd Wright tourist dollars in Oak Park. The demand may arise for the touted Oak Park hotel. Indeed, the northwest quadrant of the Park is landscaped, providing a location for such a hotel.

The synergy with downtown Oak Park is immeasurable. A pedestrian path to Lake Street encourages shoppers to experience the attractions of both downtown Oak Park and the Park. Downtown restauranteurs are encouraged to move their facility to the Park, freeing up their current space for retail use.

The benefit to Oak Park Festival Theater cannot be overestimated. One block away, joint marketing between the theater and the restaurants/night clubs of the Park and a congenial environment for al fresco after-theater drinks provides a strong financial synergy. The Park provides a location for performances during inclement weather and would allow Festival Theatre to market itself to groups, which are adverse to marketing and purchasing a block of seats for performances which may be cancelled due to weather. A supporting statement from the President of the Board of Directors of Oak Park Festival Theatre is appended (Appendix C).

The sales tax revenues resulting from various synergies, such as with Downtown Oak Park and overnight housing, are not easily estimated, but is substantial and may easily exceed the sales tax revenues projected from the Park itself.


1. Revenue generation

The Park generates an estimated $1.37 million in revenues annually from property tax, sales tax, liquor license fees, and an amusement tax. Our estimate of the revenue generated from the Whiteco development is as follows.

The Whiteco development is similar to 100 Forest. The property taxes payable in 2002 for 100 Forest Place are $676,000. We multiply this figure by 18/16 to reflect the larger size of the Whiteco development, yielding property tax revenue of $760,000. In addition, the 68,000 square foot commercial portion, based on the $6/square foot figure, is estimated to generate an additional $408,000. Total property tax revenues would be about $1.2 million.

The 18,000 square foot retail portion is estimated to generate $54,000, based on $300/square foot revenue generation at 1% return to Oak Park. The total revenue generation is then approximately $1.25 million.

The final comparison then is, based on estimates, Whiteco revenue generation of $1.25 million annually compared to the Park generation of $1.50 million, a 20% greater amount. We consider, in light of the uncertainty of the many estimates, that the revenue generation of the Park is at least as great as that of the Whiteco project.

It is important to note that this analysis ignores the important contribution of the Park to the vitality of downtown Oak Park and the Oak Park tourism industry.

2. Parking

The Whiteco project includes plans for 450 parking spaces. Assuming two-car families, essentially all of these 450 spaces would be utilized by the tenants and visitors at night and about 200 would be utilized during the day. At most about 250 spaces will be available for Lake Street shoppers during the day. The Park provides approximately 450 parking spaces at all times for shoppers, diners, theatre-goers, night club attendees, those attending cultural events in the Park, and tourists.

3. Benefits and Drawbacks

The Whiteco development would usurp valuable property adjacent to Oak Park's main shopping district for residential usage. We believe that property is best suited for commercial development.

With 220 apartments, the Whiteco development would increase Oak Park's population by approximately 500 individuals. It would not attract tourists, and it would not provide the commercial synergies of the Park.


Holley Court Commercial Partners proposes "Golden Garden's Restaurant Park," a tourism-cultural park consisting of a mix of establishments that as a "destination" attracts local residents, those from the greater Chicagoland area, and tourists.

These include a banquet hall, restaurants, night clubs, galleries, studios, and workshops, offices, a secretarial pool, retail, multi-family residential units, and a 24,000 square foot performing arts center in a congenial park-like setting. The Park will be the home for cultural and artistic activities. Parking for 450 cars will be available, providing a greater availability of parking than the Whiteco development both during the day and at night. Association with a planned Maple Furrier site development will be synergistic.

The estimated cost is $17.8 million. Of this, $1.8 million is for shell construction of the performing arts center, for which corporate sponsorship and foundation grants will be sought. Access for service vehicles will minimize disruption of the surrounding neighborhood. Use of local talent in all aspects of the development will ensure familiarity with the needs and challenges of Oak Park and enable rapid formation of equity partnership for financing demands. Total annual revenues from property tax, sales tax, liquor license fees, and an amusement tax is estimated to be $1.50 million, an amount 20% greater than that estimated for the original Whiteco development. Generation of sales taxes from the stimulation of commerce in downtown Oak Park and in Oak Park lodging facilities will be substantial.

Holley Court Commercial Partners

934 Forest Avenue
Oak Park, Illinois 60302

Oak Park Citizens Advisory Committee to Holley Court Commercial Partners

Mr. David Adler, Investment Analyst
Ms. Elaine Kostopulos, Benettons


A. Site Diagrams
B. Signed Leases
C. Statement by President of the Board, Oak Park Festival Theatre


presenting classics since 1975
P.O. Box 4114
Oak Park, Illinois, 60303

August 24, 2004

To the Village of Oak Park:

As president of Oak Park Festival Theatre, I feel that it is very important that we have direct representation in any planning for Downtown Oak Park. We are, in fact, not only the primary user of Austin Gardens, but the only arts group in Downtown Oak Park. The Oak Park Area Arts Council represents dozens of groups and cannot know all the particulars of our needs. Please contact us about, and include us in any future meetings you may have.

There are two areas of interest to us. The first would be any planning that might take place for a performing arts center. This, of course, would involve input from many groups. The second is our use of Austin Gardens, and we would be the only ones who could fully speak to this. The theater currently draws thousands of people to the park each summer, many of whom spend money in the area before the show. Besides being a service for local residents it is a feature of local life that attracts people, such as myself, to move here. It has great untapped marketing potential that I won't get into now.

One aspect that limits attendance is the primitive conditions the cast and audience have to deal with. Ours is the only professional theatre I have ever been to that only offers porta-johns. As the Tribune once commented, that reflects poorly on the Village of Oak Park. I know people who won't come for that reason. I know others who won't come because based on that circumstance say that our too low ticket prices are too high. The barn is falling apart and does not meet union standards, which include hot running water. We need storage for our growing inventory of lights and set pieces. Keeping these from one year to the next saves a tremendous amount of money, but our storage space is limited not only by the size of the barn, but by the fact that the Park District uses it to store an old fence no one wants and other materials. Perhaps this problem could be alleviated by including a storage area for them when the village works facility is rebuilt or converting a recreation center if they close one. In any event, the barn is hazardous (try climbing up and down the stairs to the storage loft) and in generally very poor shape. It should be replaced.

Another factor that keeps attendance down is lack of visibility. Many people never go down Forest Avenue, and there is no sign of the theatre from busy Lake Street. I am pleased to hear that a Lake Street gateway is being considered, but we would want to discuss how this would impact noise and unwanted traffic during performances. We do want it, we just want to see that it is done in a way that we can control.

A major factor in our attendance is the weather. Unfortunately, the summer climate in the Chicago area seems to be getting worse. In the last five years we have had the hottest, the coldest and the wettest summers in a century. All of these impact us. We are also hurt by days that are merely threatening. We need an indoor theatre we can move to quickly in the event of a cancellation. Not only would we gain revenue from performances that are now cancelled, we would increase attendance on "iffy" days if patrons knew they didn't have to worry about the show being cancelled when they got there. This would be a big boon to group sales. The Northwestern Cherubs once rented a bus to come to the show, only to find it cancelled due to intermittent rain. They have not returned since and I don't blame them.

We have a design for a building in the park that addresses all these needs. One of our former board members had an architect draw up the plans. It contains dressing rooms, bathrooms, storage and a two hundred seat theater. It fits within the parameters given to us by John Hedges, who was the head of the Park District at the time. It would go in the space now occupied by the barn and the slab in front of it, would not involve removing any trees and would not exceed the height limits he gave us. I am currently working on locating the design. We would also be open to other designs that fulfil these needs. If we had such a facility we could also do more year round programming and be even more of an asset t o the community. We are, after all, the only Equity (the actors' union) in the near west suburbs, and with pleasant facilities could attract some of the top actors and directors and donors in the area.

Other municipalities have realized not only the cultural, but financial advantages of supporting their theaters. Oak Brook is about to build an indoor facility for First Folio. Des Plaines is planning an arts center and Arlington Heights purchased Metropolis. An article in the Tribune recently talked about how Court Theatre is the only major theatre in the city that doesn't have a new facility. Almost all of them were built partly with city money. Court's theater facility is less than twenty years old. Ours is over a hundred.

A final possibility would be that if a performing arts center were placed on the north side of Lake Street that we could have a door going to the park and use those facilities in summer as well. It would be a problem, however, with the much used alley.

I will be happy to meet with you to discuss these ideas. You can contact me directly at 708-848-9395 or [email protected] I am enclosing a small sampling of the many wonderful comments we received about this year's production.


Joyce Porter
Board of Directors
Oak Park Festival Theatre

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