I am very troubled by some of the ongoing activities related to the Downtown Oak Park (DTOP) master plan. The plan was submitted to the village board over three weeks ago and public hearings were held for two Thursdays in a row (Oct. 20, 27), which included testimony from almost every member of the Superblock Steering Committee. The last meeting, on Oct. 27, lasted from 6:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. The meeting concluded with an apparent majority of the village board opposing demolition of the Goldberg (Colt) building and creation of a "new street." This outcome has lead to actions that I find inappropriate by both Steering Committee members and some in the business community.
The committee's charge was to provide a DTOP master plan/report and an explanation of how this decision was arrived at. The plan that the Steering Committee submitted (which is being used by those who favor demolition of Colt) was not supported by all committee members. The Steering Committee plan called for demolition of the Colt building and creating a new street in its place. The committee heard seven different plans from local citizens, architects and developers. Only two of the plans (Taxman and The Forum Group) called for demolition of Colt and creating a new street. Most of the local citizens who spoke at the meetings (without a personal business interest) opposed demolishing Colt and creating a new street.
At the end of Steering Committee meetings, Bob Tucker, the chair of the committee, drew up a consensus plan which he admitted ended up looking like a "Frankenstein plan" since it took a little from different proposals. Mr. Tucker also made it clear that he doesn't expect the board to accept all of the consensus plan.
Unfortunately, some members of the Steering Committee along with real estate/business interests are now saying that the board must accept all parts of the recommendation because to do otherwise "could be dangerous." Some members of the Steering Committee are also calling, e-mailing and even inviting members of the board to their homes in an attempt to change their position on Colt. It makes one suspicious of any underlying motives that may have always existed on the Steering Committee. The committee is not a lobby group and should stop acting as such.
Finally, I am troubled by the negative comments that some have made (in reference to actions on the DTOP master plan) about the Oak Park village board. They have only been in office for six months and have been much more open, democratic and civil than other recent Oak Park boards.
Apparently the April election is still being played out in the village.
Ilhan M. Avcioglu
EEAC chair, member of DTOP Sub Area Steering Committee