To the Village Board of Trustees and Chief of Police Richard Tanksley:
We are residents of Northeast Oak Park who wish to voice our support for the relocation of Purple Monkey, a website development company currently located elsewhere in our village, to the vacant property at 6027 W. North Ave. We also support the proposal that strategic development zones be created to facilitate assistance to desirable business like Purple Monkey. We urge that North Avenue east of Oak Park Avenue be designated one of these zones. Finally, we are writing to request that a police satellite station be included in plans for the redevelopment of 6027 W. North.
Eastern North Avenue is a long-neglected gateway to Oak Park. It presently operates mainly as an extension of the North Avenue business district east of Austin Boulevard in Chicago. Few of the businesses there are oriented towards serving Oak Park residents. (For example, all three pawnshops operating in our village are located within two blocks of each other from Ridgeland to Lombard.) The shoddy, neglected character of the street, coupled with the presence of these pawn shops, a pay-day loan operation, and a currency exchange give an impression we should not be proud of. For those with other options, this creates a disincentive to patronize the businesses that operate there. Moreover, neglected areas tend to attract more crime.
The redevelopment of 6027 W. North, coupled with a police satellite station located in the facility, presents an excellent opportunity to begin turning things around. It is our understanding that Police Chief Tanksley would like to add such satellite locations and that there is money in the budget to do so. There is already such a location on Austin near Harrison that has done a lot to increase the sense of visibility and security there. North Avenue near Austin very much needs this same sense of safety in order to be viable.
The proposed redevelopment is directly west of the beautiful new First Bank of Oak Park branch at North and Austin. It would build momentum for redevelopment of east North Avenue in general. There is a lot of automobile traffic on North Avenue, probably more than any other east-west street in our village. Once it looks attractive and safe, with the right mix of retail operations, east North Avenue can draw on this enormous potential market.
For this reason, we must respectfully disagree with Village President Pope’s assertion that village residents would rather see a retail operation at 6027 W. North. No retail operation geared toward serving Oak Parkers has indicated any interest in this property, and none is likely to do so under present conditions.
For the same reason, we take issue with objections that assistance for Purple Monkey will not generate sales tax for the village. We believe that it will stimulate the creation of more viable retail that will increase sales tax revenue over time. And, as Trustee Ray Johnson has pointed out, redevelopment of the long-vacant property will generate increased property taxes almost immediately.
Others have objected that assistance for the renovation of 6027 W. North would stimulate an avalanche of requests for assistance from every small business in Oak Park. We believe these fears are overblown. It is important to draw a distinction between areas of our village in which there is extensive development interest and areas like east North Avenue, in which there has been no development interest for decades. Some village assistance is a necessity or nothing will ever change. Objectors also should remember that Purple Monkey is ready to invest considerable sums of its own in relocating and renovating the property. We look at this as a business retention investment.
We also have heard the objection that assistance to Purple Monkey is premature because there is no comprehensive plan for North Avenue. We are very much in support of a comprehensive plan. However, we now have an opportunity to begin upgrading North Avenue, working from Austin Boulevard west. If we wait for a plan, which could take years, we miss the opportunity to create this momentum now.
The current owner of the property at 6027 W. North has been willing to forego renting or selling it to the kind of lowest common denominator business that currently predominates on east North Avenue. How long will the owner continue to exercise such patience?
We might not have another chance to attract a desirable business like Purple Monkey to this location for a long, long time. We urge the village board not to let this opportunity pass us by.
Judith Alexander and Joe Graber, Dona Cordero,
Sylvie and Abraham Elguindi, Ron and Marilyn Foster,
Oliver Halter and Laura Constans, Alan and Irene Hester,
Todd Laedtke, Glenn and Neelam Pride, Joan Rappaport and
Peter Schmalz, Linda Skitka, Tony Ruger and Deborah Kapp,
Ronald & Pamela Scott, Lydia Swangren