The future of Madison St.

Opinion: Editorials

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Madison Street used to have a purpose. It was to sell cars. Thousands of cars from a dozen dealerships, which lined the street from near Austin to just shy of Harlem Avenue. Those glory years stretched from the 1920s into the 1970s when dealerships decamped for much larger sites in more distant suburbs. Now just a few shadows of those decades of great success and greater revenues remain in shuttered or repurposed buildings along the street.

Since then — and 40 years is a lot of since then — Madison has stumbled and struggled with local government buildings taking up some space, some fast food franchises, a few condo projects filling gaping holes, and then just the gaping holes themselves, most of them owned now by the village government.

Now the Madison Street TIF is coming to the end and the village is eager to spend down the $4-6 million remaining. Having proven that just buying up parcels isn't a guarantee of renewal, the village is again turning to its stalwart streetscaping plan. This time the $100,000 consultant — there's always a $100,000 consultant — is rightly suggesting that part of the answer is to narrow the road, calm the traffic and see if pedestrians and cyclists and slower moving traffic can bring a new purpose to this long spine across Oak Park.

We don't disagree with the plan. We've just tired of throwing paving bricks and antique street lights at complex problems and waiting for the magic to happen.

Here's a thought: Elected officials met a week ago to talk about ways to consolidate local government functions in order to save tax dollars. Why not resurrect the notion of a government campus near Madison and Lombard where the village, parks and elementary schools could huddle together and share staff functions and some facilities?

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Chris Birkentall from Oak Park  

Posted: May 2nd, 2011 4:48 PM

Having done a graduate project regarding the Old Foley Rice building on the north side (the lovely yellow brick one done by EERoberts), this street has had more studies done by more consultants than should be allowed by law, and still nothing has changed. It still is not pedestrian friendly nor hosts an interesting array of retailers. Perhaps with added population(Comcast), there will be some life to the area and a desire to see this viable strip of land productive once again.

Chris Koertge  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 9:56 AM

...and if you're concerned about the impact that the Comcast building will have on our community, please visit for more information and to help stop this mistake from happening.

Chris Koertge  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 7:56 AM

Interesting that you suggest officials want to save tax dollars since the board is hellbent on wasting $15 million in tax dollars on the misconceived Comcast proposal. Your suggestions are reasonable, but you don't build the roof before the house. Plopping the Interfaith development into such a large area that could be better utilized does exactly that. Future development decisions will be limited once the Comcast proposal is rubber stamped. It's government at its worst.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 12:08 AM

Great idea, Dan. Real strong likelihood that you could get your idea through the Madison Ave Corridor Committee, the village planning staff, and PlanCom without much trouble. There is lots of precedents for strange proposal and smooth approvals at the Madison Follies.

OP Resident  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 11:11 PM

Oak Park needs to go on a consultant free diet. How many sidewalks, alleys, curbs & streets could be fixed if the Village board simply stopped paying for "expert" opinions? Our infrastrusture is crumbling. Too many of these consulting contracts are "no-bid" deals for connected firms. These "sweethearts" have billed us for millions. This is nonsense & makes no sense. The Village has well paid & qualified people on staff who should be able to study an issue & make recommendations. Enough already!

LB from Oak Park  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 9:18 PM

Ask Fenwick to buy some of that abandoned space and turn it into an official and well-labeled parking lot for their visitors. I'm tired of Fenwick visitors taking the parking spaces that my neighbors and I pay good money for.


Posted: April 20th, 2011 9:08 AM

Sounds like a great idea for the Comcast building.

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