I've been using the parking lot at Marion and Ontario for almost over 30 years. I've always considered it the "central convenience" of Oak Park. Without exaggeration, each and every time I've driven into that parking lot, I've inwardly smiled to myself and said, "How convenient, Oak Park is really a neat place to live!"
I'm a Bank One customer and a customer of Barbara's Bookstore, the Cozy Corner, the Lake Theatre, etc. Go to the show on any night and you will see when the movie lets out, a procession of patrons going from the show to the parking lot at Marion and Ontario.
Now, shoppers and movie patrons will have to park farther away in the parking structure, on God knows what level, and walk a longer distances to their destination. Parking structures always pose a security problem.
How many people will think twice about shopping in Oak Park because they have to walk to and from their cars in the dark in an isolated parking structure situation? I've always felt safe using the parking lot at Marion and Ontario because I was out in the open.
I'm very surprised that Bank One (now Chase Bank) and all the businesses on Lake Street are not up in arms about the removal of this great parking lot. I can guarantee that these businesses will lose business, because I'm no different from any other long-term Oak Parker and I'm going to seriously reduce my visits to Lake Street businesses.
The village government could have done something about this. I called the Oak Park parking office and was told that the village never really owned the parking lot at Marion and Ontario, and that the owner decided to build a condo/townhouse structure there.
Government is all-powerful and now has in their bag of tricks eminent domain backed by the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Village of Oak Park could have done something to prevent the removal of this parking lot. They could have pressured the owner to keep the land for parking, for the sake of the struggling business owners on Lake Street. But they did not. Why?
Look around you. In just the past three years, condo structures have been going up on every available piece of land in Oak Park. Government wants to stack 'em higher and pack 'em denser.
Government doesn't care about the small business owners or the conveniences of their citizens. All they care about is the money that will be raining down on them from the property taxes of new condos and townhouses. They simply were not motivated to save this great parking lot.
So, I've now gone from, "What a neat place to live!" to "What the hell am I doing in this town?"