After years of neglect, Downtown Oak Park (DTOP), especially Marion and Westgate streets, need tender loving care, not constant disruption. A Wednesday Journal editorial (Dec. 19, 2001) resolved, "By the end of 2002, the majority of capital improvement and economic development work village-wide will near completion so residents can savor a little peace and quiet in 2003." When can we expect this tranquility?
How about initiating the Precautionary Principle, a model of sustainability, intended as anticipatory action to prevent harm, a tool to help promote healthy alternatives? One proposed question, "How little damage is possible?"
Do we want to bulldoze nine buildings and jackhammer Marion and Westgate to make them through-streets to cater to cars? The Crandall Arambula Plan survey stated important goals of preserving our small-town character and solving traffic congestion. Bulldozing buildings, as some suggest, is anti-preservation. Opening Marion and Westgate would cause cars, avoiding Lake Street, to gridlock these streets.
As Lake Forest's Market Square proved by preserving its 1916 original development, it's better to reuse and adapt history instead of tearing it down. Taxman's comparison of their 3-story buildings with his proposed DTOP's 7 levels is out of line.
Where is Oak Parker Royce Yeater when we need him? As executive director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Midwest office, he has planned many a Main Street. Yet he is absent from the DTOP Sub-Area Steering Committee meetings. He enlivened a standing-room-only meeting in 2004 at Pleasant Home regarding revitalizing and preserving downtown pedestrian-friendly areas for long-term economic benefits.
Do we want Taxman's proposed 364 more DTOP living units and 935 garage parking spaces that many women will not frequent? The floated idea of a road going through the CTA/Metra/Union Pacific embankment at Maple Avenue from South Boulevard to North Boulevard is an expensive pie-in-the-sky.
Do we want more national chains or unique stores run by small business people? How about a survey, sent to every Oak Park resident to determine stores they would frequent? Do we need to look to Forest Park to find the person whose ideas brought a thriving Madison Street?
Who's paying for the cost of suggested plans that include high-density buildings and street demolition? Will 12 years of Tax Increment Financing funds (TIF) be sucked dry? Since there's little public accounting of more than $80 million of TIF funds since 1983, how can taxpayers be assured of its future? President Pope voted for the 120-day extension of the "put-call" agreement for the Colt building at 1125-33 Lake Street and 1138-46 Westgate. He heard Taxman say the Shops of Oak Park-GAP, Old Navy, etc.) were "on the table." By looking at Taxman's submitted A and B plans, it's difficult to know when we see the possible compromise C plan. And if the shops were to be demolished, will the state allow TIF funds for 7-year-old buildings that cost us $5 TIF millions? Is DTOP still "blighted," the reason for TIF funds?
Can Oak Park architects produce a three-dimensional historic preservation DTOP model?
Barbara Alexander Mullarkey