Streetscaping OK if anchor stores locked in

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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I read in a recent Wednesday Journal that the village board is planning to spend $5 million to redo South Marion and South Oak Park Avenue [Downtown Oak Park street redos could be done by November, News, Jan. 19]. This is a lot of money to spend at a time when so many village employees have been laid off and our state income taxes are increasing. It would be worth it if it helps existing businesses attract more customers, and helps both redone blocks attract and retain more businesses. But the point is we don't know if that will be the case.

The village has spent a lot of money on streetscapes, which have failed to stimulate viable retail districts. Our board seems to be operating under the illusion that "If we build it, they will come." Yes, this seems to have worked on North Marion, but this has not been the case elsewhere. Very few shopping centers get built until there are at least commitments from the stores that will anchor the project. Why not take that approach with these two blocks? Let's involve a national retail-recruiting firm to help us plan and market the upgraded blocks. Don't even start the projects until a certain percentage of the storefronts are leased.

And let's not forget all the empty storefronts on Chicago Avenue, Lake Street, South Oak Park Avenue, North Avenue and so on, as well as all the storefronts rented to service firms that generate much less tax revenue for the village than restaurants and stores. While we're at it, let's develop retail plans for all of our shopping districts, and hire a recruiting firm to fill them. I'd pay a firm a hefty fee if it succeeded in attracting the kinds of businesses we want to have, rather than simply investing in streetscapes and hoping they will do so.

Judith Alexander
Oak Park

Reader Comments

4 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: February 11th, 2011 9:12 AM

I am concerned that the Village Board members are for development for development's sake. They seem to support huge expensive projects regardless of the opposition of the residents. I am not all that familiar with the local politics, but I've been trying to make sense of it, and there seems to be a pattern of supporting big money for development. I was shocked when I heard they would okay 5Million for South Marion--an area that looks very good to me.

Referendum Doomed from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2011 3:39 PM

PM - The Teachers of OP97 have not taken a pay cut,they have have forgone their FY 2011 3% pay raise.If they took an actual paycut,the referendum would be needed even less by OP97.Yes, just got my enormous taxbill for my tiny condo,due April 1.No, I'm not prepared to pay anymore,in fact I am very unhappy about the amount it is already...!

pm from Oak Park  

Posted: February 3rd, 2011 7:44 AM

Yes Enuf! There are no empty storefronts on Marion street, but there is a hole in the D97 budget. Oak Parkers have paid for the schools - but the money is in the wrong bank account. Thanks to the D97 teachers for agreeing to the pay cut. It helps. However we still need to find the money elsewhere. Anyone besides me just get their first installment of 2010 taxes? Are you prepared to see a larger amount due on the first installment of the 2011 taxes?

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: February 2nd, 2011 10:12 AM

The only way to evaluate spending $5M of TIF funds on streetscape is to compare the expected return on investment and risk to alternatives. Given the fact the 100 S. Marion block has no vacancies and many recent private property investment in renovation and new construction, the village board needs to explain why the return on this investment is better than declaring a TIF surplus and returning the $5M to originating taxing agencies, such as $1.6M (32%) to D97. Street bricks or school books?

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