We were pleased to see the village board last week have a respectful and critical discussion about the future of Downtown Oak Park, especially as it relates to historic preservation. One could argue that Crandall and Arambula's master plan gave short shrift to preservation. Moreover, it's a good idea to give the new board a chance to publicly review the final plan.
What concerns us, though, are hints the village board may head down the road to more "process." Enough process. It is time for decisions?#34;especially for the area bounded by Lake Street and North Boulevard, Harlem Avenue and Marion Street.
Close in on these boundaries and the issues are these:
Preservation: How much of Westgate should be saved? Because it seems clear where the consensus has developed, we say save the faux Tudor buildings on both sides of the east end of the block. Clear the rest.
Taxman and the Colt building: There's no way the village should pay the Taxman Corporation $5 million for this building. But that's the downside of the deal a previous village board struck. The upside is the village could choose Taxman as its development partner and move ahead quickly with Colt's demolition and new construction.
Parking: Everyone we know agrees a new parking deck is the top priority downtown. Further, they agree North Boulevard is the best, maybe only, place to put it. The questions are how big and where exactly do you put it. Decide now. Start construction.
Station Street: We're fans of a new north-south connector between Lake and North Boulevard. Can't be in the spot originally proposed if Westgate is preserved. Whether it fits or does not fit will come directly out of decisions on Westgate and the parking garage. If there is a spot for it great. If not move on.
Marion Street Mall: We've called, along with Crandall Arambula, for reopening this last remaining piece of the Oak Park Mall. During the campaign, most of the newly elected village board and the new president seemed inclined to leave it closed. So be it. Decide. Move on.
This village board was elected on a pledge to unstick decision making, to not get bogged down in Downtown Oak Park but to work with all business districts. So, please do not consider, as has been suggested, an additional consultant such as Main Street. Let us never again hear the word "pause" (read development moratorium) in regard to DTOP. Listen well to the locals who have spoken about preservation. Then make your decisions. It is what you were elected to do.
Something to cheer about
It has been a long but remarkably steady climb for the OPRF softball team. Always ranked near the top, they suffered years of frustrating losses in the upper brackets of the state tournament, preventing one of the state's premiere girls sports programs from reaching the pinnacle.
Then two years ago, they finished third. Last year they finished second. And this year, they finally grabbed the ring?#34;in dramatic fashion to boot, with a three-run rally in the 11th inning. A wonderful and fitting end to a magical season.
We congratulate the OPRF girls and the school's softball program, a testament to perseverance.