By Adrienne Fawcett
If Whole Foods gets the OK to open in Lake Forest, the structure currently under consideration would be the first time the upscale grocer has departed from its typical masonry design.
That’s if Whole Foods gets the OK to open in Lake Forest; the grocer and its developer face a long road. They hit several bumps on March 5 when presenting architectural details to the Lake Forest Building Review Board. They faced other significant roadblocks when presenting to the Lake Forest Plan Commission on Feb. 14. Both commissions sent developer Shiner Group and its architect back to the drawing board, literally.
At Wednesday night’s ARB meeting, Architect Peter Theodore presented plans for a Colonial Cape design that he said utilizes simple materials, blends with the landscape and mirrors the understated simplicity of neighboring structures such as Christ Church, Conway Farms, Conway Golf Club and residential homes.
Commissioners said the design was too understated. Members of the audience likened it to a big-box store dressed up in trellises.
“The design is not substantial enough for me,” said Commissioner Monica Ruggles, who pointed out how different the proposed shopping center is from the city’s historic Market Square. “If this is a gateway, it needs to be a powerful piece of architecture.”
Commissioner Robert Freda agreed. “It’s so different from other shopping centers in town. It’s jammed up right to the road.”
“It’s not that unique,” said a resident who spoke at the podium during the public comment period. “It’s a big box store and it’s an inappropriate gateway to our community.”
Commissioner Fred Moyer asked the architect if he considered using the mansion that’s presently on the site, which is a Lake Forest Landmark. The developer seeks to demolish the mansion to make way for the Whole Foods shopping center.
The architect replied: “In order to develop this properly, it would have to come down. I don’t say that in a dismissive way.”
Moyer responded: “Your project is wrong; I don’t think it could be successful in this location.” He said there are too many buildings too close to the road, designed in a style that doesn’t reflect the history and traditions of Lake Forest.
“This building belongs on Ogden Road in Downers Grove,” said Moyer.
“That really hurts,” responded Theodore. “I can respect your opinion; I have a difference of opinion. It’s a great gateway feature. An office park was planned and approved for this site. How appropriate was that, if you consider the jobs, opportunity and recreating a little bit of history that introduces you to Lake Forest in humble and understated ways?”
Theodore continued: “There are multiple philosophies in planning. I want to bring the best project forward. I won’t stop until it is right. I ask you to work with us to get us to that point.”
Lake Forest resident Rommy Lopat questioned using the Colonial Cape style in an area that’s predominantly English Country. “Does Christ Church define the neighborhood? I would say Christ Church is an anomaly, a beautiful anomaly,” she said.
Referencing Market Square, Settler’s Square, CVS, the McDonald’s on Waukegan Road and the English Country manor house that’s currently on the proposed Whole Foods site, Lopat said: “I roamed around town looking for something that resembles the design. There is nothing that resembles what they are proposing. And when you take down every tree on the site, the replacement is bound to be anorexic.”
Shiner Group’s proposal calls for the removal of 300 trees.
To conclude the meeting, ARB Board Chairman Charlie King told the architect and developer to reconsider the architectural style. “I have trouble with the Cape style. I don’t see hardie plank (the proposed siding) anywhere.”
Commissioner Ted Notz added: “Dig deeper, come up with something more interesting. Look hard at the buffer for sound and light to the neighbors – the new condo building doesn’t provide the buffer you are suggesting it might.”
This is just a sample of the discussion at Wednesday’s ARB meeting. LFTV video-recorded the meeting; it will be posted on the city’s YouTube channel. Rebroadcasts of Building Review Board meetings are rebroadcast on Comcast Channel 17 Sunday at 7 p.m. and Monday at 8