On an evening when Oak Park's village board took a pass on an actual discussion about an extension for a development project that actually matters and will likely actually be built, its members spent an hour debating whether to give a seventh extension to a project on Madison Street that will never be built — at least not on the terms promised or previously approved.
The Madison Highlands office building has had issues from its long-ago start. And we're not just talking massive recession here. The plan was to build Oak Park's first general-use office space in nearly half a century. The last such building is at 1010 Lake St. (next door to the Lake Theatre) and was constructed in 1968. Despite determined efforts to lure some unit of local government — the park district, the elementary school district, the gymnastics center — to anchor the project, clearly there is not a market for new office space in Oak Park and certainly not on Madison Street.
As questions were peppered at the project's architect and investor Nevin Hedlund, it seemed clearer that the developers were seeking another extension to protect the existing village approval of its project as that adds value to a potential buyer. As Hedlund acknowledged, the developers are now open to potential uses or buyers far afield from an office complex. An assisted living facility was one use he mentioned.
Trustee Peter Barber pushed back effectively as Hedlund admitted his partners have actively not talked with residential neighbors, most of whom have opposed this project from the start. The middling result: An extension longer than the developer even sought and a pledge of a public update by October. Let's assume the board will want to actually receive that update and possibly even ask questions — unlike its posture over the Lake and Forest project.
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