Superblock plan should be supported

Opinion

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We are pleased to support the recommendations of the steering committee charged with evaluating the disposition of the Colt Building and superblock in Downtown Oak Park.

The committee was tasked and staffed by the Village Board of Trustees. Some might argue the committee was "stacked" with a super-majority of historic preservationists. Many thought they were predisposed to protect the survival of the Colt building at all costs, preserve the facades of Westgate, prevent big-box new retail development, while addressing the consensus need for new parking in the area. This volunteer committee spent over four months listening to a wide, diverse cross-section of interest groups: citizens, building owners, business owners, community activists, and historic preservationists. This was not an easy process. They needed to balance numerous, closely held positions, most of which were in sharp conflict.

To their credit, this committee produced, in our opinion, an objective set of recommendations that meet the needs of downtown Oak Park and the community. In the end they could never satisfy all the parties. However, they did synthesize a creative plan, based on their best judgments and, in their views, in the best long-term interest of Oak Park.

Some have suggested this plan was a disappointing consensus, destined to fall short of a far-reaching vision, because momentum inevitably must lead the committee to unnecessary compromises. We respectfully disagree. If anything, how could any plan not take into account the needs of the whole, instead of the unbending positions of the few?

More fundamental is the breach of communal contract to which the board may be leading us. We committed to review the "put call agreement" in a reasonable time frame. We agreed to meet a deadline and take a position, up or down, with Taxman Corporation as the project developer of the Colt Building. This agreement was entered into in good faith.

Following the deliberation of the steering committee, some members of the board of trustees now appear to be seeking to protract the process. Is this in the hope of finding a new 11th-hour rationale to advance their personally held positions that the steering committee was unable to uncover over the past four months?

Why would any prospective investor choose to spend their scarce investment capital in Oak Park, if it is a community that does not honor its agreements? How can we attract any developer, when our "consistent track record" of delay and reversal paints any process as a costly open-ended (open cost) blind alley? If we as a community cannot come to a position after months of a public planning process, why should we expect anyone to invest in our community.

Failure to reach a consensus, indeed synthesize a development plan, predisposes our downtown to an ever-declining spiral of squandered opportunities, lost customers, failed businesses, higher taxes.

The committee and the community have completed a difficult process. No one got everything they wanted, but a plan has been synthesized which we can support. We need to move forward, now. We need action, now.

Mickey and Susan Baer, A Matter of Style Roger Cameron, Prairie Bread Kitchen
Donald and Richard Micheli, Spaulding's Joseph Bianco, Michael Thorp, Carriage Flower Shop
Ron and Mike Fox, R.P. Fox & Associates

Adriane Kopecka, The Rocking House Boutique
Jason Smith, Rachel Weaver, The Book Table
Bugaboo Shoes
Suemei Luo, Luo's Peking House
Meme Gaudyn Lowery, Meme's Antiques
Jim and Leeann Heininger, Designs of The Interior
Clark H. Barton, Alphabet Soup
Peter and Pam Liarikos, Rock L's
David and Bob Zavell, Kite Harbor

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