When the doors recently closed at an Oak Park laundromat, a window opened at a local private high school.
The 24-hour washer-dryer cycle at the corner of East Avenue and Madison Street stopped spinning at the end of December, and owners cleaned it out in January. Neighboring Fenwick High School now owns the property at 544 Madison, along with a former auto body shop just next door.
The private school bought the two buildings about two years ago, according to R.J. McMahon, vice president of development and operations for Fenwick. He says they plan to eventually level the structures to help the school create more of a presence along the busy stretch of Madison.
"Our long-term goal is to create more of a campus feel to and for Fenwick where you'll really be able to see the school from East and Madison," he said. "Right now, clearly, that's not the case."
Fenwick bought the two properties back in 2008 from the owners of the businesses formerly located there. Altogether, the school paid about $1.8 million, according to county records.
Since then, Stelton Motors has relocated further west to 629 Madison St., while a sign in the window last month announced that the laundromat was moving to 5821 W. North Ave. in Chicago.
The Village of Oak Park's Madison Street corridor plan — a roadmap for the street completed by a consultant in 2006 — spoke to the importance of Fenwick having a presence on Madison. And the high school just finished a strategic plan last fall, which echoed the same sentiment.
But McMahon said it's unclear, as of now, how the school wants to use the two vacant buildings. They plan to take down the Laundromat sign, clean out the space and plant some flowers around the property to liven it up a little. Fenwick has been working with the Madison Street Coalition — a group created by the village to oversee the roll out of the Madison plan — on its plans for the two properties.
"The opportunity was there, and we were fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of it," McMahon said. "The long-term view is to really create a campus feel, and frankly I just don't know when we'll be moving that plan along."