Taking a hard look at the performance of its own Building and Property Standards Department in the wake of a building façade crumbling on Harrison Street is the proper step from village hall. The Building Codes Advisory Commission met last week, and will meet again this week, to consider next steps in the overdue investigation of the commercial property at Harrison and Lombard. The building is one of several properties owned for decades, and now in foreclosure along the main drag of the Arts District, by the Kleronomos family of River Forest.
This is also the moment to note that, while we may or may not find that the village's property inspectors have been lax, we can be certain that this dismal situation represents a total political failure by our elected officials going back decades.
Village officials have lacked the political moxie to effectively deal with this derelict landlord since at least the mid-1980s. That's how long key properties on Harrison have sat vacant, their plate glass reflecting back failure and disdain for the sincere efforts of so many to build an arts community out of a once-vital commercial district that Chris Kleronomos watched evaporate.
Spaces sitting empty and deteriorating for years. Properties on the brink of being sold for back taxes year after year until an 11th-hour payment was made by the owner. Spectacularly nutty and inappropriate redevelopment plans put forward by Kleronomos that called for leveling whole swaths of buildings and replacing them with hotels and convention facilities.
And always the low-key hostility from the Kleronomos family toward whatever timid actions the village government considered.
We get the notion of private ownership. But owning property in Oak Park, where homeowners feel harassed over a fallen gutter or a leaning fence, comes with responsibility and consequences — unless you are Chris Kleronomos.
So please hold the building department accountable. It seems clear its efforts were inadequate. But first, point the finger at a generation of elected officials who abrogated their duty to take appropriate action.
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