Neighbors should keep an open mind on West Sub expansion

Opinion

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Thirty-one years ago my husband and I decided to make our first home purchase. We chose Oak Park as a place to buy and set down permanent roots as it offered a community that was socially, racially and economically diverse.

We chose our home on North Taylor Avenue because it gave us everything we wanted in a home and that we could afford.

We, like many others at the time, wanted to live west of Ridgeland Avenue and north of Chicago Avenue if possible. But we chose to be on Taylor Avenue behind West Suburban Hospital. With eyes wide open, we knew when we bought that house that West Suburban Hospital would be our neighbor. We also were fully aware that we were going to live two blocks west of Austin Boulevard and the City of Chicago, and two blocks north of the train tracks.

In the past 30 years we have seen many changes to Oak Park, the neighborhood and West Suburban Hospital. Many administrations have come and gone at both the village and the hospital, have the neighbors. Twenty years ago when the professional building and garage project were first proposed, neighbors organized to hear what West Suburban was proposing to do with its campus.

Rumors were rampant: lower property values, lower quality of life, more crime and massive development right outside our doors! Someone even used the computer graphics of the day to show how a superimposed behemoth would dwarf and change the character of the neighborhood. Some went so far as to demand that the hospital buy equity insurance policies on the surrounding properties.

What was the result of that project? Certainly no decline in property values, no rampant crime waves, no helicopters falling out of the sky. We enjoy permit parking, professionally maintained hospital grounds, security patrols throughout the day and night through our alley.

It's meant convenient healthcare outside my back door for childbirth, falls, major health problems and even compassionate care during the death of a loved one. It's meant employment opportunities for many friends. And yes, it's even been a buffer between the city and the lifestyle we enjoy in Oak Park.

The last time I checked Oak Park wasn't encased in a vacuum. Yes, car alarms can be irritating fact of life. But face it?#34;it is their function.

On HVAC noise, I would no sooner demand they eliminate it than I would demand my neighbors eliminate the noise their HVACs make. Ambulance sirens: They signal a need for speed and compassion. I no longer hear them as I no longer hear the train whistles or the el trains.

NIMBY is roaring its ugly head. Rumors again as flying: Streets are to be re-routed. Opened and closed, buildings are being built where they don't belong!

If West Suburban did anything wrong it was to mention in a communications letter to the neighbors alerting them about the demolition of the Humphrey Avenue property they own, that it was beginning to plan for emergency room expansion. Maybe if they had played their hand closer to their vest, the dry grasses of the neighborhood wouldn't have been prematurely ignited.

As for me, I'm happy to wait and see. I would no sooner tell West Sub what, where or how to build than I would any of my neighbors. There are village departments to enforce codes and ordinances?#34;that's why I pay taxes.

Please people, cool off! It's way too soon to speculate on anything. When the time does come and we are asked to see renderings and models?#34;keep an open mind. The east side of Oak Park didn't become a wasteland and I sincerely doubt this time it will.

Madelyn "Maggie" Bielawa
Oak Park

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