Saving the Colt building would only obstruct downtown development

Opinion

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Forum Oak Park (ForOP) is pleased that the Downtown Oak Park Sub Area Steering Committee has recommended to the Oak Park Board of Trustees a bold, financially feasible plan that strikes a much-needed balance between preservation and new development in the superblock area of downtown.

The committee did an excellent job welcoming the input of citizens and the advice of experts before coming to a conclusion that became more obvious as the process went on: That renovating the Colt building is too costly to recommend that the village repurchase it from Taxman Corporation.

The estimated $6 million price tag to essentially reconstruct, not simply restore, the Colt would not generate anywhere close to enough additional tax revenue to justify using TIF funds for the renovation. Put simply, it would have been a huge money loser for Oak Park.

Beyond that, the committee recognized the tremendous opportunity costs associated with keeping the Colt rather than moving forward in partnership with Taxman Corp. to redevelop the superblock area. The Colt literally stands in the way of both the development of new retail space on Lake Street and a badly needed north-south street that would create better circulation, a new retail intersection, and a connection to a new parking facility.

Getting new retail projects underway will provide significant revenue to the downtown TIF, some of which might then be used to try to preserve other historic structures and make them functional for modern retail use?#34;and just as importantly, some of that revenue will immediately benefit our schools.

The paradox of downtown Oak Park is that to restore its historical purpose as a shopping destination requires tearing down a few old buildings. To keep functionally obsolete buildings the way they are makes downtown a museum piece but does little to make it the vibrant place it once was.

Jon Hale
Forum Oak Park

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