No Jewel, no Mariano's

Opinion: Editorials

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There are good things, mainly small things, happening on Madison Street in Oak Park. The wrecking ball is coming for the old District 97 HQ and the adjacent Robinson's Ribs. Handsome new townhouses will follow. Small retailers like Sherwin Williams have moved in. The hideous D97 warehouse has new owners.

But the key to redeveloping Madison Street rests from Oak Park Avenue to approximately Wesley and hinges on the long vacant and long village-owned parcel at the northeast corner of the intersection. Over the past two years, an ambitious multi-use development project has been negotiated by the village with a viable private developer, Jupiter Realty.

The proposal put forward by Jupiter, and chosen as its preferred development by village trustees, extends beyond parcels owned by the village and includes a good number of apartments, a large retail component and parking. 

The snag, as this project officially reaches on-hold status, is that large retail is hard to find at this moment. From the start, the target has been to add a large grocer to the corner. As Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb told the Journal last week, the two main candidates — Mariano's and Jewel — have now officially turned down the opportunity. Not a surprise in this moment. 

Some great option could still be in the wings, says Abu-Taleb, but this pause makes it a good time to update the public and gather input from the four new trustees elected last April. 

We trust that all Oak Parkers see the need and the opportunity that the long hollowed-out Madison Street offers. But a good discussion about TIF options and essential infrastructure investment is well timed.

Reader Comments

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Jim Coughlin  

Posted: November 18th, 2017 12:32 AM

A good discussion about Oak Park's TIFs is long overdue. Have they proven to be a boon or a bust for our community? With the Village Board still ignoring calls for full transparency of revenues and expenditures; it's virtually impossible to know if hundreds of millions of tax dollars have been spent wisely or squandered due to mismanagement, waste or fraud. Allowing the public to exam the books and submitting all financial records for study by a forensic accountant might provide taxpayers with the answers they certainly deserve to hear.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: November 15th, 2017 10:15 AM

Inevitably, most businesses will have to be corporate franchises/chains because they are the only ones with the efficiency and deep pockets to afford the off the charts property taxes. The days of the small mom and pop store in Oak Park are numbered.

James Peters from Oak Park  

Posted: November 15th, 2017 9:33 AM

Alice ?" Agree with you about smaller stores. I think someone should ask, "Is Oak Park really a place for big retail?" Look at Oak Park's successes: Boutique dress shops with unique styles. Local bakeries with good products. Restaurants, too. Each offers shoppers value: Distinctive products, good quality and a local presence. Here are drawbacks for big retail: Sales tax rate; at 10% (extortion) it drives shoppers outside the county for big ticket items. Higher operating costs for real estate taxes and labor (mandated county minimum wage). Idiocies like a bag tax and soft drink tax. All cut into margin, a reality that a bend in the street won't cure.

Alice Wellington  

Posted: November 13th, 2017 6:26 PM

Tom MacMillan - no, let's just all shop in Melrose Park, Cicero, or Chicago so they will benefit from our sales taxes instead of Oak Park. The bend, however, is not necessary. Either a smaller store, or two story structure that fits the existing lot is a much better deal.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2017 5:53 PM

Lets add some big retail just at the moment that Amazon is crushing big retail. Great plan guys. Maybe we can even get a Sears or Kmart before they go out of business.

Tom Coffman  

Posted: November 8th, 2017 8:57 AM

The bend needs to die because there isn't a need for it. If the village wants a large parcel, then negotiate a deal with the arms for their parking lot (and we know the village is quite good at constructing parking garages with elevator access) and combine it with the 'most prime corner location in Oak Park' per a consultant's study many years ago. Turning Foley Rice into the anchor will piss off the entire neighborhood to the south. If they need an anchor, then it should be at the most prime location with access to two busy streets with no connection the the side streets to the parking. How about we use the consultants advise? The Foley Rice building should be a row of mixed use buildings with first floor retail and 2nd-3rd floor residential. That would not anger anybody.

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