DTOP plan isn't 'car-centric,' it's 'reality-centric'

Opinion

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In the course of events these past few weeks, some have accused the DTOP Steering Committee's recommendations of being "car-centric." Its supporters, of which I am one, defend the plan as "reality-centric." It is unfortunate that at this point in our societal evolution, the success of a town center in America still depends on accommodating the automobile. But this is a fact of life?#34;especially in a suburb, albeit a very urban and unique suburb.

But let's face it. Lake Street is a clogged artery in dire need of angioplasty. The proposed north-south street from Lake to North Boulevard is absolutely essential. The Colt building stands in the way, and reliable financial data supports its removal. But alas, Oak Park will be less "unique" without it. ...

I contend that most Oak Parkers would not agree that it should be our village's mission to set the rest of America straight by continuing to make it inconvenient to navigate around our downtown. I also contend that most Oak Parkers do not justify paying higher taxes because of their desire to reside in a village whose entire downtown appears frozen in time.

I suspect that things like diversity, tolerance, good schools, a progressive culture, and proximity to Chicago have more to do with Oak Park's uniqueness and why people pay a higher premium to live here than does the survival of a single structure that few realized was so historically significant, given its present altered appearance.

The topic of uniqueness so raised by Trustee Brady in the context of comparing DTOP to Arlington Heights and Schaumburg belies this fact: Oak Park will remain unique whether the Colt building survives or falls. But should it survive, will our downtown ever live up to its potential and be the cohesive whole that it should be, rather than the dysfunctional kit of parts it continues to be at present?

To all who have been citing the "spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright" in the context of preserving any and all pre-Modernist structures, give it a rest! Anyone familiar with Wright and his ego knows that he would have gleefully demolished the Colt building, or any other building for that matter, if it stood in the way of one of his projects! That said, supporters of the Steering Committee's plan are not the "let's tear down the entire downtown" type of individuals that some would have you believe. I almost always default to saving and preserving a structure rather than tear it down.

But in the case of the Colt building, the building itself is in the wrong place at the wrong time, an altered impediment to progress?#34;as well as a roadblock to making the greater portion of historic Westgate a visible and viable center of activity.

Balance between preservation and innovative new construction should be the key to the village board's discussion. But will it?

Dennis Ryan
Oak Park

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