Sleepy's wake up call

Opinion: Editorials

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It's a grand space, whether you know it as the old Marshall Field's or as the old Borders. But overall it is a financially troubled building with worse ownership. So the chances are strong that soon there will be a Sleepy's Mattress store at Harlem and Lake.

The gnashing of teeth began within minutes of our posting that news last Thursday at Hardly anyone wants Oak Park's premier retail location to be a mattress store. Some readers are boiling, some are resigned, but no one is enthused. Nor should they be. This is a defeat in the decades-long effort to revitalize Downtown Oak Park.

Unless Sleepy's is undone by a cascade of unwelcoming comments, there is nothing to be done to change this outcome. A mattress store is a permitted use under even the strict retail zoning imposed in downtown. This is a private transaction between a viable commercial enterprise and a landlord desperate for a paying tenant.

So what could Oak Park's village government have done differently to achieve an outcome better than a mattress store?


If ever there was evidence that Oak Park's efforts to stimulate and steer economic growth in the village are lame and confused, well this is it. And the moment to finally fix this is now.

Here's the current situation: There's the Oak Park Development Corporation, funded partly by taxpayers, partly by member banks. This organization, with its staff and its board, is in charge of some aspects of economic development. Then there is the village government itself with a planner and a business services manager, a code department and an inspection process.

So who's in charge of what? Who recruits businesses? Who works to retain and grow them? Who markets the village as a whole? Who has a vision? Who has the clout to fix the bureaucracy? Well, we pay attention and we're not sure either. We know the current and long-time rudderless effort is busted and that it creates a singular lack of accountability and energy.

With money in its budget to hire a development czar and a working model of success in the nearby Berwyn Development Corporation, it is time for the village president and board, as well as the OPDC board, to take this substandard effort down to the studs and to build something wholly new.

Reader Comments

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Priority One from Oak Park  

Posted: August 20th, 2013 2:02 PM

I'm all for it as long as the villages commissions a study to determine whether any pigeons will be displaced by the selling of mattresses at this location.

Al Johnson  

Posted: August 20th, 2013 1:24 PM

Shandra, Sled, Violet and Monty - I have never been more proud to call OP home than I am after reading your comments. Bravo my friends

Sled Dog  

Posted: August 20th, 2013 1:20 PM

I find that the best purpose is to use the old mattresses to sled down one of the many sledding hills in Oak Park. If you just leave the mattress, a person will pick it up and put it on a stolen shopping cart and drag it to the austin neighborhood for recycling. The springs are worth money so I would not worry about old mattresses laying around. You can rest copper gutters on a mattress thus increasing the surface area and profit

Violet Femme from Oak Park  

Posted: August 20th, 2013 1:17 PM

One thing I am worried about is that rich people will pay to have their mattresses delivered and many poor people will be forced to tie down mattresses to the top of their cars. I think that the citizens of Oak Park need to be prepared to face this ugly reality. We have a substantial number of therapists in the community and maybe if we are proactive we can train ourselves to overcome this fear. I wonder if the used mattresses that will be discarded by the poor in the ally could be repurposed


Posted: August 20th, 2013 12:33 PM

I look forward to the dedication of the 'Sleepy's' hospital wing, Monty. LOL

Monty Bags from Lake Forest  

Posted: August 20th, 2013 12:01 PM

Shandra Very well said and it is quite true that the people that build the businesses,that provide the jobs and pay the taxes are usually the ones picking up the pieces for the poor. They also sponsor most of the cultural events, put up hospital wings and do a lot of good for society. God bless the rich and I wish I was one of them

Shandra Lear from Oak Park  

Posted: August 20th, 2013 11:49 AM

Even though I am far from a millionaire, i laugh when I read comments lambasting the rich. They are the ones that fund almost everything that oak park finds so dear such as programs for people with no teeth, no scooters, no house, no parents, bad parents, no school supplies, no breakfast money, no lunch money, no boots, no backpack, no medicine, no therapist, no suit for interview, abusive husband, no bus fare, and I am sure I could think of more. Let's try and be easy on the people with money

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: August 20th, 2013 10:32 AM

Watched board meeting last night as members commented. One of the things mentioned was the Micro Brew event and how it did very well. "Showed everyone are that attended the wonderful downtown area and great shopping we have!" What!? Great Shopping! Really! Am I missing something??

op resident from oak park  

Posted: August 19th, 2013 10:49 PM

I agree with comments re Madison being a good location for Sleepy's. OP needs to get on top of their game and go lure businesses that will add to the sum of the parts. Their marketing materials are pie in the sky and the staff is incredibly vague (as doesn't answer at all) when asked by the board who they are woo-ing and how during annual budget meetings. Watching on one feels the board doesn't want to open a can of worms and dig in so they tread lightly in asking for accountability.

hate to say I told you so . . . from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2013 10:38 PM

(sorry . . .) my point is the marketing arm of the village and the board should ask the women who spend money in the village what ELSE would make their shopping experience more complete. The idea being to make sure they don't need to stray for basics like department store cosmetics. Sure DSW is not glamourous BUT up market shoppers are definitely in there in droves. Sleepy's is a destination so it would have been good on Madison where people do with the intention of doing something specific.

OP Resident #642 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 19th, 2013 10:36 PM

Don't think anyone in OP, trustees included, was against an Ulta in Oak Park. They were too PC to simply state that they didn't see a need for yet another wig store. If the Madison Corridor were marketed appropriately (ok, marketed AT ALL), Ulta would have been a great fit in the old Walgreens space on Madison. Instead it is just another wig supermart. Ulta is another coup for River Forest. Yet again, I'll spend my money there.

hate to say I told you so . . . from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2013 10:29 PM

(cont.) Ulta would have been a boon in the Marshal Field's space as would the new DSW in River Forest, provided the space could have been carved up to suit. These two stores alone keep women from leaving the area to shop by filling a non-competitive niche with what we have. Once in Oakbrook, for example, for cosmetics, shopping for clothing and shoes is a natural progression. The more we can provide services and goods for women locally the more the ripple effect for extant businesses.

hate to say i told you so . . . from oak park  

Posted: August 19th, 2013 10:19 PM

OP trustees were repeatedly and openly hostile to the *idea* of having "another beauty supply" store in OP. Now River Forest has Ulta which is oriented to skin care, make up and fragrance -- everything the extant stores in OP are not (they are more for hair). All the women in the area are thrilled to find department store cosmetics available locally.

OP Resident #642 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 19th, 2013 10:10 PM

@Valerie - The Oak Park Planning Commission usually prefers that all of the lower-end stores and developments land on Madison. This one is dangerously close to the sacred bricked intersection of Marion and Lake. It's shocking. Just shocking.


Posted: August 19th, 2013 5:17 PM

Won't a lower-end mattress store (if that's what Sleepy's is) be beneficial to some of our residents? Is this all about appearances?

opmom from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2013 4:35 PM

I was just in NY last week and saw many Sleepy's stores all around Manhattan -- I can't say they looked great, though. Very down-market... It really is a shame there seems to be host of reasons we can't attract a better retail option here...

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 13th, 2013 3:57 PM

If you build it, they will come. That's been promised by those who have been responsiible for spending millions of our tax dollars in Downtown Oak Park. They hired numerous and very expensive consultants to devise plans for redevelopment of the area, awarded no-bid contracts for services, cooked up a sham real estate deal that put thousands of dollars into the pockets of a couple of well-heeled insiders, handed over control of Village owned properties to private interests and continue to keep the public from ever getting a look at the revenues and expenditures of the TIF district. A forensic accounting of the books might be the only way to ever know the actual extent of the waste and mismanagement involving the people who have been calling the shots.

Peter Creticos from Oak Park  

Posted: August 13th, 2013 3:55 PM

The OP as we know it is a result of engagement that some others ridicule. No other community in the area embraced social and racial diversity and backed it up with great schools and honest government. Taxes are high, but we enjoy the fruits. Unfortunately, we have lost economic diversity that also defined us as a welcoming place. I am frustrated that the boldness and creativity that enabled OP to survive and thrive seem lacking as it comes to economic and commercial development.

Aspiring Entrepeneur from Oak Park  

Posted: August 13th, 2013 3:11 PM

Just put in a few mats and punching bags, and serve $1 beers every night. It would be the most popular place in town!

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: August 13th, 2013 2:44 PM

Agree with last 2 posts. Look at the mess with the Arts District and how the Village has handled that area over the years. Now it is stuck in foreclosure & bankruptcy with empty buildings. All the board has seem to do over the past yrs is discuss everything to death. Now they are dealing with Madison st which they do need to address. I hope this new village president will get things done, but I am not very confident.

OP Transplant  

Posted: August 13th, 2013 1:52 PM

Businesses will look to locate where they have the best chance to make money. Obstructive local government, high taxes, inconvenient parking, and a community that boasts of "economic diversity" is not a recipe to attract upmarket retail. So, if a mattress store offers to fill a storefront that's been empty for a long time, the property owner is happy to get the rent. I mostly leave the village to shop, as do most of you, admit it or not. Everyone I know goes to Oak Brook.


Posted: August 13th, 2013 1:51 PM

True story - called 6 times before I got response regaridng $500,000 potential investment. then told 2 years for zoning and permits, $90,000 in prpoerty taxes and no tif funds. oh almost forgot, could not change outside of building at all - you be the judge

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: August 13th, 2013 12:15 PM

Have spoken to several businesses (Brew Pubs) who were looking to open in additional areas in Chicago. As soon as you mention Oak Park you get a negative response. "Cannot do business here". Maybe they can't here, but this town has a bad image out there. Go to LaGrange and see how busy their downtown is!! This Village needs a new direction to move in and get hungry to attract new businesses! Period!

Drab from Oak Park  

Posted: August 13th, 2013 10:23 AM

A shame that they cannot use the punitive "leaving Oak Park" tax of 0.8% to fund the lower property taxes of whining empty nesters who forghet that young families come for the schools. Some hear love the market, but get mad when it produces a mattress store as an anchor tenant. Me? I will shop at North and Harlem's mattress store, which has parking right in front. Now, a head shop would interest many OPers, I bet.

OP Transplant  

Posted: August 13th, 2013 7:23 AM

Whatever problems we have as a community, a shortage of local gallery space is not one of them! A mattress store actually makes sense in this space, given the lack of onsite parking, since mattresses are a delivery item. It's very important to remember that this is not a choice between Sleepy's and some other, more desirable, retail entity. It's a choice between Sleepy's and the same empty storefront that's been there for years. Easy choice, when viewed that way.

Peter Creticos from Oak Park  

Posted: August 12th, 2013 5:35 PM

Perhaps, we should ask the CTA to rename the Green Line and call it Sleepy's Line. It happens that there is a Sleepy's at State and Lake in Chicago. Perhaps the old Borders could be developed successfully into a space like a Woolworth Walk in Asheville, NC. That is a privately owned gallery for area artists that has proven to be immensely popular with residents and tourists. It fits with Oak Park's efforts grow tourism and complements homegrown establishments like Book Table & Marion St. Grill.

OP Transplant  

Posted: August 12th, 2013 11:53 AM

Craziest community I've ever seen. Boasting about an increase in Section 8 units, then complaining that it can't attract upmarket retail. "We're lowering our median household income. Where's our Apple store?"

Other OP from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 11th, 2013 10:14 AM

Right, and the very Trustees who slept at the wheel while we just got into this mess were just reelected in uncontested races. This sentence will be the first time leader and Leuck have ever been used in the same sentence.

Original OP   

Posted: August 11th, 2013 4:59 AM

Oak Park is a critical stage the long term health and success of the village. Poor strategy, high taxes, increase crime in local area - now is the time for leadership.


Posted: August 10th, 2013 6:52 PM

Wig stores, SRO housing, pawn shops and now a mattress store where we used to have Marshall Field's. When's the strip club coming?

dystOPia from OP  

Posted: August 10th, 2013 5:24 PM

Any tenant selection in a privately-owned property is primarily a market-based decision. I place no blame on the village for a disappointing tenant in a premier DTOP location, because the village, DTOP, and OPDC has little influence in these matters. The market decides tenant selection, not brick streets, expensive streetscaping, and TIF subsidies, as once again proven by Sleepy's mattress store.


Posted: August 8th, 2013 2:36 PM

OP - For the record I owned a building & ran a business from it in downtown OP for 12 years. NOT lowering taxes is the non starter. In 2000 my 18,000 sq ft space was taxed at $52,000- wouldn't be surprised if it doubled by now. I sold it & purchased a building in Chgo where I currently run another business. Now why don't you tell us all about your business experience in downtown Oak Park. If you don't have any maybe it's time you tried.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 8th, 2013 2:09 PM

Market Driven - Like your thinking, but the DTOP President was unaware that Sleepy was a done deal. He heard about it from the village and the press. I am all for market driven but you first have to reduce the power of government driven.

Market driven  

Posted: August 8th, 2013 2:05 PM

Last time II checked numbers are UP in DTOP. Kudos to them. People ARE coming and enjoying OP more than ever. I say let the market make the final determination of who/what occupy s the private space. Just remember it could always be a wig store or a currency exchange.


Posted: August 8th, 2013 2:00 PM

@rj - do you have practical of formal business training? just lower taxes? that is a non starter. have to actually develop innivative strategy that offsets issues/weaknesses. IE Berwyn and security concerns with police presence. Your limited, one dimensional thinking is exactly what we do not need.


Posted: August 8th, 2013 1:52 PM

OP - Not what I said. What's interesting is how you can skate around the real issue at hand which is that taxes are too high to attract what OP seems to think it's entitled to. That's where you can insert 'suck'. It's not realistic to wish certain businesses will come & petition/mandate others not to just because it doesn't fulfill your past vision.You should be thankful any business wants to be in OP & carry the commercial tax burdens it will have. The solution- lower our property taxes.


Posted: August 8th, 2013 1:03 PM

@rj so if i am reading this correctly, we suck, oak brook is better. why try to make it better - just accept it and watch OP slip further in many ways? Ok - sounds like a GREAt solution - hey I voted with the 800,000 in cash and 12 jobs we did put in Oak Park.


Posted: August 8th, 2013 12:44 PM

OP is not longer the the next best thing to downtown Chgo. Oak Brook changed all that. We don't have a secondary market to generate sales needed for most businesses, let alone the confiscatory property taxes. Maybe if OP saw the benefits of lower tax rates it could attract some decent businesses w/ staying power which would also give OP'ers some additional spending power to support them. When you send all your $$ to school districts/unions that's all you can hope for. Don't complain!


Posted: August 8th, 2013 10:28 AM

@aThis starts at the top and any type of real change needs to start there. Somehow, OP became so sure everyone elses desire to be here and stopped working hard to make it business friendly. Did you kow Mayor Lovero (Berwyn) meets with every single business owner interested in Berwyn? OP is great place from family side - terrible from business side. Need to form strategy - i.e. this is what we do well, this is what we can become, this is our message.


Posted: August 8th, 2013 9:56 AM

Could we get a petition going? I bet we could get a ton of OP'ers to sign--but would it make a difference?


Posted: August 8th, 2013 9:20 AM

almost forgot - $125,000 a year in property taxes and no TIF funds and no changes to buidling... crazy


Posted: August 8th, 2013 9:17 AM

True story: We wanted to invest in OP business in 2012 and called village 6 times with no response. When we did finally get in touch with someone, we were zoning would take 1-2 years, permitting and oversight 1 year - for total of 24-36 months (depending if concurrent). We met with impressive Berwyn Development on Jan 1. had term sheet by March 2nd, drawings approved and permits by Maay 1 and started construction by June. OP needs to do honest assessment and realize there is a big problem.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 8th, 2013 12:03 AM

Putting it in simple terms. Oak Park's leadership (staff and partners) has aged priorities, processes, and policies that are based on the way the world worked in the 1990's. It is time to do a structured review of the village's entire operating practices of the village from top to bottom. It is also time to break up the village's use of cronyism as a source of wisdom. There is ample evidence that the wisdom has failed us.

Sarah Silverman from Oak Park  

Posted: August 7th, 2013 10:23 PM

...cont. Then make sure VH and OPDC are staffed with people who have vision, care about Oak Park and know how to be responsive and work together. Professionals that can actually function.

Sarah Silverman from Oak Park  

Posted: August 7th, 2013 10:18 PM

Pavlicek said that the organization of the Village government is "flat." Not enough levels of supervision. So what did the board do? Create an economic development manager to supervise existing staff. Is this what Downtown and the Marshall Field's building need? A staff supervisor? Haley got it right. Start over from the ground up. Clarify who does what between VH and OPDC.

Joe Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: August 7th, 2013 10:05 PM

It is not just OPDC at fault. There is no vision at Village Hall. No staff retain, recruit or market businesses. If I want to bringing my business to Oak Park, who is the public face I talk to? A manager's office who won't return calls or the "lame, confused, substandard and unaccountable" business services office?


Posted: August 7th, 2013 2:59 PM

There is no cohesive strategy and far too much red tape to drive growth. We wanted to develop business in OP and could not even get a return call from OP. I can assure you Berwyn has much better plan is amazingly responsive.

Beverly Graham from Oak Park  

Posted: August 7th, 2013 2:40 PM

After all this time, A MATTRESS STORE (?!), is the best we can do!!! No, no, no! We don't want "Sleezy's" on this space. It has high visibility, and would send a terrible message. Do not sign this lease!

Frank Lloyd Wrong  

Posted: August 7th, 2013 2:31 PM

Let's see: Forest Park puts in some nice street lights on Madison and ends up with an attractive mix of eclectic, locally owned, mid-market shops and restaurants (including a few chased out of Oak Park). Oak Park eviscerates its business district in the name of the planners' grand scheme in favor of parking lots, fast food, and chain stores. If I wanted to live in Schaumburg I would have moved there.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: August 7th, 2013 1:41 PM

And does anyone actually see these types of changes ahead for the OPDC? I thought so. This is another bureaucratic nightmare that will continue to lack any vision for a downtown area that people want to come to for shopping, dining and maybe a movie. Instead, who is going to strap a mattress to the top of their car, hit Mancini's for a great pizza, maybe Ben & Jerry's for some ice cream and see a movie?

Oak Park Business Owner from oak park  

Posted: August 7th, 2013 1:04 PM

One of the main problems with Oak Park business development is the fact that there is little turnover on the OPDC Board of Directors. A good number of the Directors are retired and several are from the country club crowd. The Board should add current (small) business and property owners who actually know what it is like to run an Oak Park business and personally pay Oak Park commercial real estate taxes; not disassociated CEOs of entities that just happen to have local offices.

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