Oak Park doesn't need a 'lifestyle center'?#34;keep the Colt
I disagree with the editorials supporting the Superblock Steering Committee's recommendation to tear down the Colt building. The worst thing the Oak Park shopping district can do is turn into a "lifestyle center" as the new shopping malls are now called.
Guess what, Oak Park already has a life! Let's not lose our soul for the monetary benefit of a few. I hope the village board hangs in there and finds a plan that includes the unique Colt building.
Restoring Colt is an irresponsible use of tax dollars
I would like to address the way certain board members have completely disregarded the main recommendation of the Steering Committee's plan for the downtown superblock. The piece of the Steering Committee's plan, the one piece that makes the whole plan work, is being gutted. If we restore the Colt building, it makes the whole plan ineffective. Why build a new garage if it is hard to get to? These certain board members acknowledged that foot and car traffic (such as what is proposed for Marion Street) is one of the success factors to the whole project. Why does that thinking stop when you get to the street proposed in place of the Colt? At that point, why restore Westgate if you cannot easily see the shop owners or the buildings? Marion and Westgate streets, even opened, will not be able to effectively handle new traffic for the new garage.
I am a preservationist and former Oak Park Historic Preservation commissioner. I own and have restored Frank Lloyd Wright's Parker House to its original 1892 condition. I also have professional experience in the retail industry. The Colt building is an arcade building. Arcade is another word for pedestrian mall. The history has shown that they do not work; they lack traffic flow. Look at Lake Street in the '70s and at the current development direction towards lifestyle centers within the retail industry. Lifestyle centers are successful because they leverage foot and car traffic flow.
I understand the need for preservation as part of the whole. It troubles me that we can't look at this situation as an opportunity to create tomorrow's Oak Park landmarks. By gutting the plan of the Colt building, you will leave us with a plan that fails to accomplish its main goals. It seems real preservationists, the Landmarks Preservation Council, understand this. I am not sure why certain trustees do not. It is an irresponsible use of our tax money to buy and restore the Colt building.
The Steering Committee has accomplished a great feat for Oak Park. They have brought together the preservationists, the downtown business owners, planners, designers, and the developers. We should thank them and embrace their plan, not throw away this opportunity and our tax money.
Preserving Colt would demolish the public's trust
Dear board members,
I urge you to adopt all of the recommendations of the Downtown Superblock Steering Committee, including tearing down the Colt building and adding a street there. The steering committee's plan has benefited from extensive public input and study by many experts. The schools have foregone millions of dollars over the past decade in the hope that careful and strategic redevelopment of the Downtown TIF district would yield future expansion of the tax base. To preserve the Colt building (which is really not all that attractive anyway) at a staggering cost would yield a building that is marginally productive, and that impedes key traffic flow requirements for the success of the total plan, which would wantonly squander those precious funds and certainly demolish the public's trust.