Oak Park trustees give South Marion redo the go-ahead, Avenue on back burner

Split village board argues aesthetics and TIF finances


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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

In a marathon five-hour meeting Monday, a split Oak Park village board gave approval for ambitious plans to reinvent Marion Street, just south of the Green Line el tracks. However discussion of a similar redo of Oak Park Avenue was delayed until, at least, this fall.

Trustees voted 4-3 late Monday night, paving the way for a roadway project on Marion, from South Boulevard to Pleasant, which will include brick streets, granite sidewalks and a canopy of decorative lights. Village officials estimate that the project, including water and sewer replacement, will cost $5.5 million, with work starting in the near future and wrapping up by Thanksgiving.

Those voting in favor argued the project would tie the 100 block of South Marion to its neighbor to the north, and would help spur private investment in the street. On the other side, trustees John Hedges, Bob Tucker and Adam Salzman said the project seemed too expensive, with the benefits unclear. Tucker and Salzman were attending their first formal board meeting after being elected last month.

"It kind of boils down to brick-it and they will build, and I don't necessary buy into that 100 percent" Tucker said. "What matters most is what's in the stores, but I also fully recognize that we're talking about a chicken and an egg here, that you need the right environment and setting to attract those stores."

About four years ago, Oak Park invested $6 million to tear up the former pedestrian mall on North Marion, fitting it with heated sidewalks and a fountain. Officials believe the project was a boon, leading to investment in properties and filling up vacant storefronts.

So in keeping with Oak Park's "downtown master plan," village hall wanted to continue sprucing up the community's main shopping district. A majority of the board expressed some doubts that investing millions in one block would bring a similar return. But Trustee Ray Johnson and President David Pope urged their colleagues to green-light the plan.

Johnson compared rejecting the project to states, such as Wisconsin and Florida, turning their nose up at federal dollars to build high-speed rail lines. Oak Park was getting prices that were some 48 percent cheaper than expected to overhaul both South Marion and Oak Park Avenue from Lake to Pleasant.

"That is penny wise and pound foolish, and if we're getting prices like we're seeing now, at such a discount, I think now is the time to capitalize on this opportunity," he said.

Pope said he'd much rather use tax increment financing dollars to gussy up streets, rather than giving payouts to developers. He pointed out that the added features only cost 27 percent more than a plain street, but they're expected to last much longer.

"I'm not a huge fan of writing big checks to developers," he said.

The village board decided to hold off on similar streetscape improvements on Oak Park Avenue which would have brought the total bill to $14.3 million. Trustees said they wanted to wait and see what happens with several development projects before figuring out where to go with Oak Park Avenue.

Currently, there's a balance of about $4.7 million in cash for the village to use toward the street project. The village was originally considering taking on debt to pay for the more expansive street work. But after trustees scaled the repairs back, Chief Financial Officer Craig Lesner said he'll search for ways to bankroll improvements without paying interest.

Trustees who voted no expressed reservations about funding the street fix up with an I.O.U. And John Hedges thought that other projects should get precedence, such as similar street improvements the village has eyed for Lake Street.

"We have parking garages to build, and we have choices to make in terms of what's going to benefit this downtown area the most," Hedges said. "And we have priorities that have been set by the master plan, and this doesn't rise to the priority of other projects."

Officials said they put South Marion at the top of the list, though, because the street is in need of resurfacing, and the underground utilities date back more than 100 years.

Salzman said that it felt like the plans were being rushed, and pointed to comments from village staff that the street isn't in "emergency" need of repair.

"It doesn't sound like there's an imminent disaster," he said.

Members of the South Marion business association urged the village board to approve the project, saying that their board voted with a "super majority" in favor of the plans. On the other side, some members of The Avenue business association expressed some doubts because of the high costs and possible harm to businesses while construction takes place.

Reader Comments

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Michael Iversen from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2011 10:25 AM

@RJohnson: the village used a method of analysis with serious flaws, as it doesn't account for time value of money, risk, financing, net present value or opportunity cost. For example, the village saves $3.1M initially when using concrete vs. brick pavers (Phases 1, 2 and 3). If this $3.1M is invested by the village at the same rate to pay back bonds (4.5%) over the same 100-year service life term, the $3.1M would have a future value of $278M, which isn't accounted for by the village cost study.

J.oak park  

Posted: May 13th, 2011 8:44 AM

@Ray Johnson. I would like to thank you,sincerely, for your timely responses to posts on this board. I would also like to say that I am not opposed to enhancing the appearance of S. Marion.But not now in these tough financial times. I do wonder if this is driven by a true need to fix the infrastructure or pleasing the business owners on S. Marion who got stiffed in the N. Marion re-do.

Ray Johnson - "an OP resident" from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2011 8:27 AM

Re: Costs - Marion St. granite curbs cost $1.3M and stone sidewalks cost $670K -- note these costs represent a 48% savings over the cost of Marion St. treatments. Life cycle cost comparisons with asphalt or concrete, we realize a savings of 25-30% when useing brick/granite/stone. This analysis was completed by the contractor and verified with real examples from other communities. Conclusion -- a higher cost upfront, but lower costs over the life cycle.

J.oak park  

Posted: May 13th, 2011 7:26 AM

@op: so the only old sewers in OP are below marion st? RE Poor Phil's... you think the additional noise from tires on brick streets will attract outside eating? you can already eat outside there and you know what really attracts foodies? good food! it is not the ambiance that keeps me away from poor phil's, it is the food.


Posted: May 12th, 2011 9:41 PM

Last post wasnt me! Pretty much everything I said. Go back 2 post. I know you like definitions. Remember?


Posted: May 12th, 2011 9:32 PM

Move on out John. You do not like it here. Just pack your bags and leave.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: May 12th, 2011 8:59 PM

OP - INFO FOR YOU -- DICTIONARIES USUALLY CONTAIN SEVERAL DEFINITIONS FOR EACH ENTRY. HERE IS THE MORE CONTEMPORARY VERSION! The basic facilities, services, and installations needed for the functioning of a community or society, such as transportation and communications systems, water and power lines, and public institutions including schools, post offices, and prisons.


Posted: May 12th, 2011 8:27 PM

I would imagine when pertaining to Marion st, infrastructure means sewers, under ground water lines and utilities, then the street above all of that.


Posted: May 12th, 2011 8:25 PM

havent seen any bridges over marion YET.Heres the DEF:the basic, underlying framework or features of a system or organization.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: May 12th, 2011 8:01 PM

Infrastructure is only below the ground????? Does that mean utility poles, bridges, streets, roads, etc. are not infrastructure? Where did you get this crib?


Posted: May 12th, 2011 7:45 PM

@ j. Infrastructure means below the surface repairs. FYI. There will soon be the largest pothole in all of OP and we will want to fill it. Glad to see TIF dollars being spent in responsible way. Went by Poor Phills tonight and imagined what it would be like with those brick roads and I was excited. Can you say dinning alfresco. If you build it, they will come. Maybe even more people will die and have funerals at DB!!

epic lulz  

Posted: May 12th, 2011 7:23 PM

@RM -- if local access coverage of VOP Board meetings involved the viewers voting off a Board member every episode, I'd watch it.

epic lulz  

Posted: May 12th, 2011 7:12 PM

"I thought TIF funds were to be used to re gentrify blighted areas?" That was the original purpose, but corrupt pols quickly found out that they could be used to transfer money in the opposite direction, from the poor to the rich, and as slush funds to pay off supporters.

Southsider from Oak Park  

Posted: May 12th, 2011 7:11 PM

How about sinking a dollar or two into south OP? Yes, there are actually stores and restaurants located on S.Oak Park Ave. You probably aren't aware of this because it is south of Lake and Marion. Yes, there are OP residents that live out here. How about venturing out of your box someday and observe.

RM from Oak Park  

Posted: May 12th, 2011 6:58 PM

Damm!Why did I watch American Idol last night when I could have seen the latest Christopher Guest movie on local access from City hall! Ray Johnson really? this is like fla giving back stimulus money from the Fed. Wake up we are laying off people at city hall and don't have enough money for salt in the winter.I think the end of this movie has Ray and David Pope playing the fiddle on the heated sidewalks in front of the cheese market while cars collide on the ice at Marion and south blvd.

R.U.Kidding from Oak Park  

Posted: May 12th, 2011 6:32 PM

So I see David Pope on television with a group of other mayors speaking about the Springfield stealth tax and how the lack of funds is going to mean cutbacks in Oak Park. Then I see the article about spending 4.7 million of TIF funds to put in new sidewalks in front of the Opera Club? I thought TIF funds were to be used to re gentrify blighted areas? Send the money back! The schools can use it and even at 17% the village will still end up with near 700k to put towards potholes and salt.

J.oak park  

Posted: May 12th, 2011 5:57 PM

I have wonderful news: I was on South Blvd, turned left on Marion, ended up returning south on Marion all the way down to Randolph. Not child swallowing pothole to be found... really no potholes of any significance at all. I certainly have driven down streets in OP than south Marion. Good people of OakPark.com: can you please set up a way for people to take photos, and post, of streets and other infrastructure needs that should take priority over south Marion?


Posted: May 12th, 2011 5:25 PM

"Senior mistakes" is precious coming from the leader of the logically impaired. Good grief.


Posted: May 12th, 2011 2:39 PM

john, you must scroll down further. Trustee Johnson posted originally on 5/10 at 10:59. I posted on 5/11 at 4:59p and then Trustee Johnson posted again at 5/11 at 9:27p


Posted: May 12th, 2011 2:35 PM

john, you tend to make some senior mistakes. Ive seen you comment on the wrong articles and see things wrong including this. Go back and see that clearly Trustee Johnson posted before I.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: May 12th, 2011 2:32 PM

Gee OP, according the the comment string, you mentioned the 70% before Ray. How is it possible to go off someone else's comment before they even write it?


Posted: May 12th, 2011 2:28 PM

I was going off of Trustee Johnson's info. Point is that BOTH school districts have a bunch of money NOW and the TIF is not hurting them one bit.


Posted: May 12th, 2011 1:16 PM

@ Teresa Powell: I understand that the tif money must be spent in the tif district. My question really is "what infrastructure needs are more desperate than S. Marion?" Or is this just a case of finding a problem so the street scape can be improved?

psuedo voodoo  

Posted: May 12th, 2011 12:29 PM

Unless Op and Ray Johnson are one and the same.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: May 12th, 2011 11:59 AM

Isn't it interesting that Ray Johnson and OP both came up with the same 70% figure for TIF funding to D97/200? I sure hope that OP is cribbing from Ray. It would be very scary if Ray was cribbing from OP!

Michael Iversen from Oak Park  

Posted: May 12th, 2011 10:53 AM

@RayJohnson ... while we are referring to the same DTOP TIF Pro Forma, I was referring only to the TIF amount distributed to D97/200 for 2011, while you are referring to the TIF amount distributed to all taxing agencies for 2011-18. The TIF amount returned to all taxing agencies (gross amount of distribution) is shown on column 13 of the Pro Forma. Since the D97/200 share is about 67% of gross distribution, the amount returned to D97/200 is $45M for 2011-18 (47%, not 70%), and 31% for year 2011.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 11:51 PM

Just wondering if someone can attain what the cost is of the granite curb and stone sidewalks. Those have to be big price items. I like the street pavers but I don't see the need for granite. Regular concrete curb is fine. What would the price tag be if it was regular curb? Can we get a breakdown of the "competitive bid"? That can probably be FOYA'd! No way that block is $5.5 Million at a "48% Discount" and still competitive with contractors who are bidding at cost or below now days.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 9:27 PM

@ Mr. Iverson - I think you are using an outdated DTOP TIF Pro-Forma. The Pro-Forma from Monday night indicates $67M in TIF payments to Schools ET.AL out of total TIF inflow of $95M, equating to 70.5%. This is through the end of the TIF in 2018, in which the 2003 Carve Out agreement continues to increase the distribution to the schools.


Posted: May 11th, 2011 6:49 PM

Michael, especially after the referendum. Both local school district is as flush as can be. Thanks for your concern. Build nice things and people shop and live there and we get more tax dollars. Simple

Michael Iversen from Oak Park  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 6:16 PM

@OP: not 70%, as posted earlier by Trustee Johnson, but rather 31%, as stated by the village's DTOP TIF Pro Forma (posted online). The 2011 TIF revenue is $9,560,000, of which $4,471,265 is returned to taxing agencies, per 1985 Settlement Agreement and 2003 IGA. D97/200 receive about 67% of this amount, or $2,995,748, which is 31% of the TIF revenue. Since D97 is placed in a lower wealth category due to property taxes lost to TIFs, it qualifies for more State Aid, a distinction of dubious merit.


Posted: May 11th, 2011 4:59 PM

If we ended the TIF today the schools would get LESS money overall b/c the state would decrease it funding. The schools and village are getting 70% already

Michael Iversen from Oak Park  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 4:48 PM

Just wanted to add to Village Clerk Powell's clarification re. TIF spending; the village has the option of NOT spending TIF funds that are not already obligated, declaring them as surplus and returning to the originating taxing agency. For example, instead of spending $1.5M on brick streets, granite curbs and bluestone walks at S. Marion St., 67% ($1M) can be returned to D200/D97 and 17% ($0.25M) to the village, where it can be used for capital improvements, such as residential street repair.


Posted: May 11th, 2011 4:33 PM

If the TIF money isnt used, then why create and have them? RF ran into this dilemma and found themselves having to SPEND before deadlines. Sort of like a yrly corporate budgets. Use it or lose it. OP is in a much better tax situation b/c of the tiffs than other wise.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 4:23 PM

For Jim Kelly, Hats Off to Tucker and Saltzman. It takes guts to vote with the minority on a big issue at your first meeting. Most trustees take baby steps at the first meeting. Tucker and Saltzman came out of the gate in full trot. Can't forget Hedges either. He is always the man who defines the work trust in the title Trustee.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 4:19 PM

It is a heated comment page today so maybe a little levity is needed. First, thanks Teresa for the TIF funding distribution. We all need education on its complexity. On the levity side, shouldn't the village change the name CIP Fund? Phonetically it is SIP. My mind keeps picturing developers, politicians, and planners standing around a water fountain saying "All I need is a sip."

Oak Parker  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 3:50 PM

OP Res, you are the problem with how people think about politics today. Your comments serve no purpose or have any validity to them.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 3:38 PM

Jim Kelly is right. It was refreshing to see the new trustees stand their ground and vote "No". All most residents want from the VMA is to know that the deck isn't stacked. We'll see if Tucker and Salzman maintain positions that are contrary to the wishes of President Pope. He was clearly not pleased by the split vote. Lot's of big issues facing the board this year. Pope knows he can count on Luecke, Johnson and Brewer to tow the line. So this little rebellion won't make a big difference.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 3:27 PM

I understand your postion, Chris Goode but there's a reason folks post using a dub. In my case, I witnessed Village Attorney Heise conduct an extensive search of public records at Village Hall. He was seeking personal info about a person who's letter critical of him was printed in the Wednesday Journal. I don't think you would be comfortable with Ray Heise on your case. He's relentless! I'm sure you know that a lot of web forums allow the use of dubs. No big deal for most.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 3:20 PM

@j.oak park- the Village Chief Engineer Jim Budrick has that information. His department has issued grades for every street,alley, curb and sidewalk in Oak Park. Repairs are scheduled based upon those areas that receive the lowest scores. Budrick is not going to release his full report cards without trustee approval. That's not likely to happen. Residents know the extent of problems but the Village Board's focus is on economic development. That's why S. Marion Street is getting a $5mil redo.

epic lulz  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 3:05 PM

@John Kehoe: The OPAve/SBlvrd area is blighted primarily because of the long drawn-out foreclosure process on the properties on the SE corner. That is now (thankfully) over with, and businesses are announcing that they are moving in, most recently Forest Park Bank in the empty lot.

epic lulz  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 3:01 PM

Yes, the 4-3 vote was an encouraging sign. Still, I'd like to have at least one Board member that represented the vast majority of OP residents who are not members of the VMA. Just one. Is that too much to ask?

Teresa Powell  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 2:46 PM

Just a clarification regarding TIF spending. Money from the Madison Street TIF can be spent in the Madison Street area; money from the Downtown TIF can be spent in the downtown area. Other funds must be used for capital improvements in other parts of Oak Park from the CIP fund.

j.oak park  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 2:37 PM

Can we make a list of streets that may need attention, more immediately than S. Marion? 1) Garfield, from Ridgeland to just before Harlem

John Kehoe from Oak Park  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 2:13 PM

Still wondering when and what will be done with Oak Park & South Blvd. This is an eyesore and a real loser for the tax base. Couldn't both streets have been done by doing with less as TW had suggested on 5/10?

Donna Kniaz from Oak Park  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 2:09 PM

So where are we, the village that is broke, supposed to get the funds to build an unnecessary redo of the shopping district. Infrastructure is needed, not cobblestone streets and planters. In a time if fiscal cost-cutting, only do the necessary, not the fluff!

Jim Kelly  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 1:43 PM

To all folks here who during the recent campaign regularly posted screeds about the big, bad, monolithic, lockstep VMA, please note the split vote on this project.

Chris Goode from Oak Park  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 12:33 PM

@OP and other pseudonymous contributors. I have seen several conflicts between different folks using the same pseudonym on this website. Perhaps choosing a more original moniker than OP or OP Resident, etc. might help. Better yet you might try using your real names. I think most Oak Parker's believe that freedom of speech is a good thing, and no one should think the less of you if you are posting a responsible comment. I'm not sure why most posters feel the need to be anonymous.

Just Money from Oak Park  

Posted: May 11th, 2011 10:00 AM

Maybe the VMA could help beautify one block east, where the 'Soho' developers have boarded up two half-built condos, and dumped loads of dirt over the freshly poured foundations, stubbed-in electric, gas & plumbing of the structure that was supposed to 'integrate' the development look with the neighborhood.


Posted: May 10th, 2011 10:36 PM

This OP doesnt think you should move epic. Not sure who that other OP is

Tad Wefel  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 10:17 PM

OP is special and unique with its nineteenth-century grid and downtown. Village board has sought to find good balance btw development and the unique character of downtown and kudos for that. But Whiteco and Lake/Forest really were goddawful design ideas from the start. All should be thankful that the real estate crash prevented us from ultimately owning the proposed hotel. S. Marion improvement a good idea, but high expense is another example of good intentions, bad execution. Do with less.

Tad Wefel  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 10:04 PM

Not a big fan of the amount of money being spent on trying to make S. Marion more visually appealing, but generally support the idea. Can still get to the same point without spending so much unnecessarily. Slate completely over the top. Ideas overall though much better thought-out here (simpler?) than the fiasco the Village is in with Lake/Forest. If the village is going to get involved trying to create a business environment, do it less. Do it with less. Do it with less. Do it with less.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 9:58 PM

Stay right where you are at, Eric! The debates and discussions on this forum are a community asset.It's drawn responses from a number of elected officials. A great way to engage with community leaders. We've learned more about the decision making process and what our neighbors are thinking.

epic lulz  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 9:04 PM

Sorry, I prefer to fight for Oak Park than to give it up to all the idiots, incompetents, and scoundrels who always resort to utter nonsense like, "If you don't like it, then leave." You really shouldn't show your hand so easily.


Posted: May 10th, 2011 8:48 PM

Just move somewhere else if all you have is complaints. You do not need to live in Oak Park.

epic lulz  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 8:20 PM

OP, your claim was that all the people bitching about the plans for S Marion now love what the Village did to N Marion. I dispute that.

epic lulz  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 8:19 PM

"Why can't they spend any part, even a small part, on OP Ave in SOUTH Oak Park?" Frankly, I think that's a good thing, given how I've witnessed the VOP screw up every development they've touched. For example, I'd hate to see Pan's get kicked out like every other small indie grocery in OP, which would surely happen if the Village started throwing money around down there.


Posted: May 10th, 2011 7:33 PM

Epic, I dont worry about attracting someone like yourself. Its NEW tourist that I'd like to come to OP and enjoy their stay and maybe even stay in the NEW hotel planned for Forest and Lake. Wow, I am excited for OP and the next 5 yrs. Cant wait.

epic lulz  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 6:43 PM

"These are the same people who stroll and shop on N Marion st now." Actually, at least one of us still thinks that opening the mall to cars was one of the dumber moves by the Board. And, oh yeah, I already stroll and shop on S Marion without any bluestones. It's also easier to bike over the pot holes on S Marion than bricks on N Marion.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 6:25 PM

A redo of Oak Park Ave. would have cost another $9mil. It's still on the table. The board decided to revisit the plan in the fall when they have a better idea of projected TIF revenues. Approving all 4 plans would have emptied the TIF coffers. The bad news is the trustees now realize that they will not have the money to construct 2 parking garages. They are going to have to borrow or pay for the projects out the Village's general fund. That means no money to fix neighborhood streets or alleys.


Posted: May 10th, 2011 4:57 PM

Why can't they spend any part, even a small part, on OP Ave in SOUTH Oak Park? That area is completely ignored and has been since I was a kid many years ago. Seems like the southern half of dear old Oak Park just fails to exist. Sad, really sad.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 4:25 PM

I should have checked my back issues. Thanks for the info. Mr. Barwin reported it to the board last night as if it is coming to fruition. Still an ugly idea but will see how it works out.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 4:01 PM

Dear OP Resident, the Journal first reported on a "tentlike 'pavillion'" in Mills Park in December 2008. It was proposed as part of the park district's Master Planning process for Mills. "It would be used to ease wear and tear on the the home (Pleasant Home) during public events," according to a story by Ken Trainor. So the concept goes back some ways. Here's the link: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/12-09-2008/Pleasant_Home,_pleasant_park?_Mills_moves_ahead

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 3:52 PM

"David Pope always did have a courageous long-term vision for this town." IF he does he should put it into the Master Plan. I don't find the Madison street contraction, the Madison Ave. planting plan, or the Madison Housing Development in any Master Plan. Some one needs to recognize that TIF funds is not monopoly money.

epic lulz  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 3:51 PM

"I want Oak Park to be different than any place in America." No, I'm pretty sure that everywhere in the US resources are being diverted from the have-nots to the haves.

Teresa Powell  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 3:47 PM

The agenda packet for May 9 is at http://www.oak-park.us/voptv/index.html You can click on an agenda item to go to the relevant documents.

Teresa Powell  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 3:46 PM

If you want to review all or part of Monday's meeting online, or read the materials presented, here's the link. http://www.oak-park.us/voptv/index.html You can skip to whatever part of the meeting you want, including public comment and board discussion.

epic lulz  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 3:45 PM

I already see some of the bluestones crumbling on N Marion. Is that part of the "enhancement" voted on last night for S Marion?

Nick from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 3:27 PM

Am I the only person laughing? "Mater Plan...Master Plan..Master Plan..." Just sayin.

DiaaK from OP  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 3:12 PM

I love the idea of extemding the brick steet beyond the train station. Sounds like it will be a very classy addition. David Pope always did have a courageous long-term vision for this town. We sure did like his last idea!


Posted: May 10th, 2011 3:12 PM

Of Course. Even You.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 3:07 PM

Insinuating he doesn't love me?


Posted: May 10th, 2011 2:57 PM

God does.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 2:32 PM

Mayor of Wrongville...at it again! The public relations folks at the Village must loooooove you.


Posted: May 10th, 2011 2:30 PM

Thats why your leader jumped ship. Mike, OPRF has a $80 Mil surplus.......SURPLUS. Thats where the focus should be. By doing good and responsible upgrades in the TIF district, it brings MORE TAX dollar$ to the taxing bodies. TIF 101.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 2:29 PM

Village Manager Barwin let it slip that the Park District is planning to erect a huge tent on the grounds of Mills Park. The semi-permanent structure will used for large,private functions and special events. So much for preserving our limited green space. And talk about ugly! When the tent does come down, there will be a gigantic muddy patch covering most of the park's grounds.

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 2:28 PM

Michael Iversen's comments seem pretty much on target. Telling us that the systems under South Marion are 100 years old doesn't mean a whole lot when there are similarly aged systems under other areas of OP. There has to be a better way of balancing the village's need to attract and keep businesses with the equally pressing need to maintain the infrastructure of the rest of the village. Providing aesthetic frills when the rest of OP has enormous potholes doesn't seem to get there.

Violet Aura  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 2:18 PM

Well OP, I spent the first 25 years of my life there; does that count at all? As for RF viaducts, the issue at hand is financial priorities. RF is not going to repave some sidestreet and yuppify it at the expense of its schools (some of the best in the state, I might add). Focus.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 2:18 PM

Isn't it being village-centric to say that only OP'ers can comment. I mean, we spend a lot of money trying to attract visitors, tourist, and shoppers here. It seems inappropriate to brush them off. Also inappropriate is people using pseudonym to speak as if they represent the village without proving that they actually live in the village. OP, where do you live?

Michael Iversen from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 2:16 PM

Since the DTOP TIF district diverts property taxes from local taxing agencies that includes OPRF High School (D200), River Forest residents have a vested interest in TIF-related issues.


Posted: May 10th, 2011 2:15 PM

Have you seen RF's viaducts? You speak as if you LIVE in this Village. Your always welcome to spend your tax dollars here and ride your bike or walk our Village. Thanks for caring so much.

Violet Aura  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 2:11 PM

@OP: Um...what if I told you that they allow me to freely roam in OP? I use my bike as a car and must go under those godawful viaducts and they are very treacherous for cyclists because it's dark under there and the potholes force us to ride closer to the middle where the cars are!


Posted: May 10th, 2011 2:01 PM

violet aura, I thought you live in an apt in RF? I appreciate your concern for your old Village, but its not your issue.

Oak Parker  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 2:00 PM

Great News. looking forward to the new and improved street.

Michael Iversen from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 1:04 PM

Why wouldn't businesses want public infrastructure premium upgrades when they derive the benefits while costs are borne by residents? In contrast, residential property owners are required to pay 50% of costs for brick streets on their blocks, as well as 50% of public sidewalk repair. You have essentially created an inequitable, two-tier public infrastructure system. If the DTOP businesses desire premium upgrades for their public infrastructure, they can pay for them via a special service area.

Vanity Project from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 1:01 PM

Let's call it "The Johnson & Pope Memorial Superfluous Bluestone Area"...and every time I roll over a pothole somewhere on an Oak Park street, I will curse the fact that this vanity project kept the priorities of real Oak Parkers from getting done. Cry at someone's front door now, Johnson!

OP Resdient  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 12:56 PM

Trustee Luecke actually seemed to get it! She questioned the more extravagant aspects of a S. Marion St. redo. She was fine with replacing water & sewer lines & repairing the street. But retreated quickly and babbled on about the need for more room at street fests & how much she wanted to find a shady spot to rest. Absolute gibberish once again from the board's bobblehead. Luecke folded like a cheap tent when pressed by President Pope & Trustee Johnson. They drove the agenda. She rode along.

Michael Iversen from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 12:48 PM

TIF funds are for blighted areas, and if not, surplus funds are to be returned to originating taxing agencies, such as school districts (67%) and the village (17%). As per the village's DTOP TIF Pro Forma, only 41% of forthcoming TIF revenue will be returned to school districts. Premium costs for S. Marion St. brick pavers, granite curbs and bluestone walks are $1.5M, which is more than the 2011 budget ($1.37M) allocation for improvements/repairs of the remaining 102 miles of village streets.

Violet Aura  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 12:30 PM

How about UNDER the viaduct??? Same with Home Ave. Absurd. What are we trying to do--mimic Naperville? Yuppify the exterior and neglect the public education system? No money in the coffers for art and music teachers, though? This is a prime example of lack of priorities.

Michael Iversen from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 12:17 PM

@RayJohnson ... correction: the current DTOP TIF Master Plan (Greater Downtown Master Plan by Crandall-Arambula, 2005) categorized S. Marion St. as a secondary retail street, calling for streetscape improvements only for sidewalk, landscape and lighting (p.55). No brick streets or granite curbs and gutters. In addition, sidewalk paving improvements are to be concrete sidewalks with painted crosswalks (p. 26). No bluestone walks.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 12:15 PM

I was just uploading docs to www.madisonprojectinfo.com so people can see documented village housing priorities. The (updated in 2010) Report on Affordable Housing Strategies by the Housing Programs Advisory Committee identifies the need in Oak Park as 1) Housing appropriate for seniors living in OP 2)Rental housing for families earning below 80% of the area median income 3)Transitional housing for low-income residents and disabled 4) Assistance for first-time homebuyers 5)Foreclosure.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 12:14 PM

Questions for Ray Johnson. Where is the money going to come from to complete the Downtown Master Plan? Is this board going to have to borrow money or will they draw from the Village's general fund to pay for construction of two garages? The DTOP is running out of money and time. Your vision for Oak Park is swell but impractical. There are more pressing needs than granite sidewalks & brick streets. The sewer systems in our neighborhoods are also a 100 years old. Our streets & alleys are crumbling

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 12:08 PM

Ray Johnson "As called for in several plans and studies,...." If Ray is strong in his beliefs, he will vote against the Madison Housing Development since no where in ANY village plan or study does it state that the village needs "Single Only Housing."


Posted: May 10th, 2011 11:05 AM

Thank You Ray for your explanation. I whole heatedly agree with you and I'm sure so will most of these people once they see it completed. These are the same people who stroll and shop on N Marion st now. Infrastructure. I'll say it again- Infrastructure.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 11:04 AM

I will add -- a super majority of the S. Marion / S. Blvd. businessess (a majority of those which are small business owners) are in support of the project, which includes replacing sewer/water lines - some of which are nearing 100 years old. This isn't just a beautification project, but an important infrastructure project. The question is what do we put on top of a reconstructed street -- asphalt, concrete or bricks. The longest lasting element of the three are bricks - at 100 years.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 10:59 AM

As called for in several plans and studies, infrastructure and streetscape programs are imperative goals to further enhance Oak Park as a destination, expanding the tax base in return. TIF dollars to be used for this project can not be used outside of the TIF. Importantly, 70% of all dollars currently collected in the TIF go back to the schools. The actual cost for the streetscape enhancements represent roughly $1.5M, with the remainder costs appropriated to infrastructure.

More Silliness from OP  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 10:56 AM

Completely unneccessary. I'm sure it will be lovely. A perfect "whitewash" for a community that has deeper issues that are continually ignored. The only silver lining is that the Oak Park Ave redo failed and there were 3 Board members who voted "no." Maybe someday the village will straighten out its priorities.

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 10:25 AM

Point taken, Dan.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 10:24 AM

"I want Oak Park to be different than any place in America", that's Ray Johnson's vision. What's the cost? The sky's the limit! Bottom line is that the Downtown TIF is running out of money and Oak Park will have to borrow money or draw from the general fund to finance several more important DTOP projects. Decades of wasteful spending and mismanagement will be the legacy when this TIF expires in 2019.

What does that mean?  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 10:17 AM

Help spur private investment...Marion Cheese appears to get a new sidewalk cafe...what is the benefit to OP?

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 10:11 AM

Carol and all, Marty posted this brief at 1 a.m. after a five hour meeting. Give the lad a short moment to recover. A more complete story will be up in a few hours and the complete story will be in print tomorrow. Thanks, Dan

Michael Iversen from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 10:04 AM

Pope, Johnson, Lueck, and Brewer have decided to expend $5.5M of taxpayer's money for a beautification project on a street that already has 100% storefront occupancy, and is already filled with new construction (Opera Club) and renovated projects (Barclays American Grille, Carleton Hotel). In the meantime, residential streets continue to deteriorate with deferred maintenance and repair. Hedges, Tucker and Salzman have decided to be fiscal stewards, as per their charge as Trustees ... thank you.

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 9:58 AM

Ohhh, thanks for the info OP. I get it now. TIF = making sure that money stays where the wealthy are. It's like modern day redlining.


Posted: May 10th, 2011 9:52 AM

Its unfortunate that Marty didnt include where this money is coming from in this web extra piece. I think it plays a huge part as to those wanting to spend the monies elsewhere. The monies can ONLY be spent in the TIF district.

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 9:48 AM

It would be nice to see some more details on how the village board made this decision, including what information they relied on. At first glance, this seems like a lot of money to spend on an already nice area, when there are parts of OP that could really use structural upgrades, rather than just aesthetic upgrades.

D97 parent from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 9:36 AM

This is insane. In this economy, when the schools are desperate for funding, the board decides to spend $5.5 million on flower boxes and heated sidewalks?? This is one of ths stupidest decisions they've ever made.


Posted: May 10th, 2011 8:42 AM

This is what they created a tif to divert money from schools for? Granite sidewalks and brick streets? Are you kidding me? As a community, where are our priorities? No studies on the potential additional tax revenue this $5.5 mil will bring in? Greatly disappointed in this decision.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 8:25 AM

$5.5 million for one block that already looks nice? Where does this money come from?

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2011 7:38 AM

Great, the area needs a facelift! However, not sure if the $5.5 million cost will be the final cost. I hope the plans are detailed and accurate or the costs will rise--just watch!


Posted: May 10th, 2011 7:07 AM

So will john murtagh NOW believe that ALL the VMA people vote alike. john, you there?

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