One-of-a-kind Walgreens debuts in Oak Park

Madison Street drugstore powered by green energy

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Walgreens has more than 7,500 stores throughout the U.S. And a spokeswoman for the Deerfield-based company says none of them are quite like the one that opened at the southwest corner of Madison and Oak Park Avenue on Monday.

The drugstore just finished moving one of its locations a few blocks east to 801-811 Madison. They've preserved the façade of the 1920s-era Collins building, and have added a drive-thru to help bolster their pharmacy business.

But what truly makes the store unique, says spokeswoman Vivika Vergara, is that it is warmed by geo-thermal energy, which comes from heat in the center of the earth, a renewable energy source.

"Obviously people can't go underground" to see the system in action, but Vergara says a kiosk set up there will show customers how much energy is being saved. Walgreens estimates that the geo-thermal system will save the company about 46 percent in energy costs.

The new Walgreens has other green features. Sinks are made from recycled materials, and the floors are, too. An abundance of windows in the storefront lets them light the space naturally during the day.

But why innovate at this specific location? Vergara said Oak Park has changed its ordinances to encourage the use of geo-thermal heating, and the village has set an example in using green building practices.

"Oak Park is always actively encouraging residents there to be clean, green and sustainable," she said. "This is a great place to try it."

Meanwhile, according to a village official, a dollar store is taking over the old space at 916 Madison.

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John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 10th, 2013 3:03 PM

Ray, there is no perfect world. That's why there is so much risk. I understand your rationale that perhaps the government should be removed from commercial and retail development and let the business world take charge. The problem is that the rationale requires a belief that OPV has excluded business from development issues during the last twenty years. That is just not true. Business owners and their associations have been deeply involved and very committed to TIF's, government grants, etc. They have financed political campaigns, lobbied their interest aggressively, and have had major interaction with the village board. When is the last time you have seen minutes, read articles, or heard discussion about the monthly meetings between business leaders and village management? When is the last time, you have seen business people taking their 3 minutes at board meetings to express their concerns about the village fiscal woes and debt? There is collaboration between village and business leaders, in its worst form. It is elite conversation and private support that ignore the overall good of the village and concentrate on projects that fill the village leaders' goals and the business interest in growth. Village communications are structure by hand shake deals by those with direct interest, and the patronizing filters on what residents should be allowed to know. Having a businessperson as president is a giant step forward; particularly with the blossoming of independence on the part of members of the "New" board. Their independence, the board's recognition that the village manager has to be more than just an administrator, and the opening of dialog throughout the village is what is needed. That is the "New" board has to set policies that create transparent collaboration with every organization in the village and the residents. It would be a big change and carries risks, but informed and collaborative risk is critical to moving the village forw

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 10th, 2013 2:06 PM

Excellent thinking, Muntz. The village plan from the 1990's was that Madison would be retail. A TIF was launched, some beautifying took place and major money was applied to make it that way, and roads were improved. It was successful on the western side of Madison was a bust. Why?The retail goal became a plan to attract Big Box retail (Target, Best Buy, etc) No one seems to observed that the major retail had located east (The Chicago Renaissance) and West and North West where gigantic plot developments with huge parking, great roads and hundreds of stores attracted the dollar. Oak Park did not have the land, parking, or private investors to compete. Proof - Madison did attract some retail because of low rents. Low rent brings low revenue from property and sales tax. If the village had used the TIF monies to knock down aged buildings to made big space, perhaps things would be different.


Posted: June 10th, 2013 9:55 AM

Is there a defined goal for Madison? It seems to me that OP is intent on defining Madison's commercial district as a retail district. Maybe more retail is not the answer. Maybe something else has to be done first that will spur more retail growth in the future. Office space? R&D? Innovative technologies? Partner with Concordia/Dominican? Maybe Madison's future is not focused on retail, rather a means to get more people in the Village as a whole and retail merely supports that vision.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: June 10th, 2013 8:47 AM

@ MN & JBM So, in a perfect world, what is the solution? It looks like the Village Board's quiver is empty and we all see a need for some new plan. Could a program be set up to partner the businesses in the different retail districts to support the other districts. A failing retail area in one part of town is bad for the whole town Could this be a place where the business insight of our new president could help? This community survived quite well before taxing incentives, government intervention and all of the other business welfare programs folks seem to think are the only solution. How about giving Madison corridor their autonomy and see what happens. It couldn't be worse than what government intervention has done.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 9th, 2013 11:24 PM

Ray Board Members are residents with the responsibility to make decision for "all residents." When they do what best for the community, they deserve compliments. When it comes to Madison, they get no compliments!

Madison Neighbor  

Posted: June 9th, 2013 9:21 PM

@Ray - Our village board and commissions ARE a detached entity that could care less about the survival of the Madison corridor. That is absolutely how I feel on the matter and I'm completely fed up with it. Thanks for summarizing succinctly. They'd build a nuclear waste dump on Madison, despite the feeble complaints of the people who live around there, if it provided enough benefit to DTOP.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: June 9th, 2013 1:40 PM

@ JBM I always assumed that our government is our residents and everyone should be concerned about an area that is blighted. You sound like our village board and commissions are some detached entity that couldn't care less about the survival of a neighborhood. Could it be that they just don't have the answers? I am sure that some big time city planner will give you the text book solutions - or is that what has been tried already? Perhaps we should just let the neighborhood evolve without injecting entities that sound like they come out of a french planning manual. I bet if the village would let the existing businesses and residents build and promote their area we might see great things. I don't think that has been tried yet.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 9th, 2013 1:12 PM

At the right hand side of the page is Recent Comments. If you click More Comments at the bottom of the message string, you can get post that go back for several years. Some issues never got old!


Posted: June 9th, 2013 12:01 PM

I'm confused. Why is this article from November 2010 showing up now?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 9th, 2013 11:53 AM

Ray, I understand your Madison angst, but think you are pointing your finger at the wrong villians. in your quote "Madison Street is what it is because local RESIDENTS fail to make it more." Blame Plan 90 which stated that commercial development would reduce taxes. Blame the TifS - the biggest folly in OP history. Blame the staff that spent a fortune on consultants and architectural drawings, blame the board for ignoring Madison because their sole focus was on DTOP. Blame the Madison business owners who neglected business investment while waiting for the TIF windfall. Blame the village for keeping property (DPW Bldgs, etc) and buying more. Blame the dreamers, but don't blame the residents who fought against the Madison Housing Project, the Road Diet, and the D97/OPV plan to expand village hall, blame all those who manage retail development and created Wig City. But don't blame the residents who have suffered 20 years of neglect. The Madison Development is going to be on the July board agenda. See you there.


Posted: June 9th, 2013 7:49 AM

Now where am I going to get my wig!

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: June 8th, 2013 9:00 AM

Madison Street is what it is because local residents fail to make it more. Look at madison street west of Harlem, vibrant, active - a destination. No one goes to the Madison business district in Oak Park. We have had 2 auto dealerships fail hardware stores fail 2 major printers fail a nationally recognized toy designer fold up his tent. Oak Park Hospital fronts madison street but they sure don't want you to know it. No one gets dressed up to go shopping on madison St. So now we snipe about a dollar store,and a SRO and fast food and pawn shops and any other store that might survive in this bastard step child retail area. Perhaps the village should promote businesses that don't depend on "through the front door" business to prosper. Forest Park does well because it is their principal central business district. The Oak Park business districts are not coordinated and compete with each other. No one shops North Ave, Lake Street, Madison and then winds up on Roosevelt road after checking out the Arts District on a nice saturday morning. Perhaps the village should theme the area as " Nice quality stuff, at less than Lake Street Prices" just an idea!

Madison Mark from Oak Park  

Posted: November 6th, 2010 8:19 PM

How about one of those discount cigarette stores? Madison Street is screaming for a quality retail outlet like this.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: November 3rd, 2010 11:13 PM

A DOLLAR Store -- next step should be Madison South being annexed to Cicero. from Oak Park  

Posted: November 3rd, 2010 2:19 PM

A Dollar store would not be my first (or second, or thired) choice for this location, but the building is probably something of a white elephant, and if the buyers have the money, it's probably hard to say no.On the bright side, the green solutions deployed at the new Walgreen's location give one some hope.

Harold from Oak Park  

Posted: November 3rd, 2010 10:45 AM

I agree with the comment above. The addition of a Dollar Store only serves to contribute to the low end culture, clientele and image resonating along that stretch of Oak Park. Again I find mysalf thinking that the environment here falls far short of expectations given the property taxes.

j.oakpark from oak park  

Posted: November 3rd, 2010 8:05 AM

A dollar store? Is that all that we can come up with? Well, count that as yet another Madison Ave store I will never go into, including all of the fast food joints. New to Madison in OP: A dollar store and SRO, great. Step Out of Line and visit skid row. Question: why is it that Madison Ave in Oak Park looks more and more like Madison east of Austin and Oak Parkers seem to want a Madison more like West of Harlem?

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