Skokie approves plans to convert office space to apartments; affordable units added

The Skokie Village Board on Monday, April 1, approved a plan to convert two office buildings into a large, higher-end apartment complex after the developers agreed to add some affordable housing units to their plan.

After the Board failed at its March 18 meeting, due to a technicality, to approve a developer’s plans to convert the two 7-story buildings at 5202 and 5250 Old Orchard Road into 245 rental units, the developers came back to the board with an amendment to include affordable housing units in one of the towers.

At the March 18 meeting, Village Board members voted 3-2 in favor of the development, but Trustee James Johnson and Corporation Counsel Michael Lorge noted the vote was not valid because village code requires a yes vote of four trustees to officially take effect.

At that time, two trustees, Johnson and Keith Robinson, said they voted against the development because it did include any affordable housing units.

When the developer, Mitch Goltz of GW Properties, returned to the village board for a second vote on Monday, his proposal included a promise to offer 5% of the rental units in one of the towers at affordable housing rates. Goltz said those units would be a mix of studios, one, two, and three-bedroom apartments.

At Monday’s meeting, Trustees Keith Robinson, Edie Sue Sutker, Ralph Klein and Alison Pure Slovin and Mayor George Van Dusen voted in favor of the development. Trustee James Johnson voted against it, saying that he would have wanted the board to first establish an affordable housing ordinance, which it had previously considered, but rejected in November.

The board will reconsider the affordable housing ordinance within the next month, Van Dusen said.

According to village documents, the apartment comples would include 24 studio units, 84 one-bedroom apartments, 115 two-bedroom apartments and 22 three-bedroom apartments. The developer also would buy the five-story building at 5230 Old Orchard Road but would only develop its rooftop to convert it into a recreational space for tenants with a running track, pool, putting green, bocce ball and green spaces.

Tom Drake of the Drake Group had previously said the project could not include any affordable units because it would not be economically feasible. He said that while the buildings themselves would not need to be erected, the conversion to create 245 apartments with bathrooms and kitchens would be expensive.

Drake said the rent costs would be comparable to other incoming rental properties coming into the Old Orchard area of Skokie. In February, Westfield Old Orchard’s owner said the construction of 400 apartments at the mall would be expected to break ground in 2025. In November 2023, developers for a 5400 Old Orchard Road development with 245 apartments, 49 townhomes, and 10,000 square feet of commercial space received $100 million in construction funding. That development also promoted high-end luxury apartments with recreational space and co-working spaces.