What to do with a site owned by the Village of Oak Park that is as big as the Whiteco site but is in the middle of a residential historic district? Hold a meeting on the first evening of Passover and the week of Easter, of course.

Crandall Arambula (CA), the name that rolls trippingly off the tongue, was again invoked Wednesday evening during a “stakeholder” meeting addressing issues related to a proposed RFP.

The subject of the RFP will be a right of way and three parcels owned vicariously by all of us. These are located at South Boulevard from Harlem through Maple up to an alley. This combined site is about 55,000 square feet.

The propositions offered for consideration by the economic development department of the village appear to be directed to the construction of a monolithic building that will likely be of no use to any of the local residents and which would permanently close yet another street to traffic. The square footage of the street would be sold or perhaps depreciated in a land cost write-down.

Height under consideration, pursuant to the three-year-old development plan used to promote Lake Street, is 45-80 feet. The highest building along the street is 45 feet. One proposal clearly has 80 feet as the upper limits of height. Consider 80 feet in height of a new office building on the border of a historic district at the beginning of blocks of residential housing.

This proposal was devised in a part of the plan for redevelopment of Downtown Oak Park, a plan with which the participants in Wednesday evening’s meeting were supposed to be intimately familiar (and therefore not supplied or made available). The focus of CA was not what was good for residences south of the tracks, but what was good for the commercial district north of the tracks.

What works for the Lake Street office and commercial market is significantly different from the South Boulevard area. It is different because of the traffic, the streets and the proximity to the historic districts. It is different because there are little or no tall commercial buildings east or south of the site. It is different because you cannot expand South Boulevard due to the railroad right of way or State Highway 43?#34;sometimes fondly referred to as Harlem Avenue?#34;or Maple or Marion for that matter.

The meeting illustrates how the Downtown Oak Park planning process is challenged significantly by the physical nature of the area when there is an attempt to expand it south of the railway lines. The Harlem, Maple, Pleasant, Marion area is simply not the same as the commercial nature of Lake Street and any consideration to relegating this area south of the tracks to a supportive role for the North Boulevard, Harlem, Ontario and Lake street areas is a burden to the residential owners. Such decisions must be carefully considered prior to the issuance of any request for proposal.

Will traffic get better because of an intensive use of the site? Will parking become more plentiful if an RFP response appears that is predicated upon an 80 foot high structure, the taking of Maple Avenue right of way, and another 50,000 square feet occupied with 8 stories of offices? How will these factors be addressed in an RFP? What accommodations and mitigation will be effected to the residents who purchased in an area three blocks from Lake Street but then experience significant changes as a result of the development of these parcels?

We have seen several attempts by the municipality as a corporate entity to advance big development ideas. Some have been successful. Some have not. And now that the principal architects that created the 21 parcels of village-owned property have left or are leaving, how shall we proceed? What have we learned?

The meeting last week did little to facilitate a discussion or consensus on issues related to height, vacating the right of way, parking, and use. Confronting the attendees with five-minute discussions and a copious lack of information regarding the CA plan, it is little wonder that by the end of the evening those who remained were primarily employees of the village and trustees.

I am not opposed to review of possible uses of the site and to that end seek to have a more responsive and informed effort on the part of the elected officials, its planners, partners, agents, employees and assigns. Given the experience of the efforts of the current “process,” there are nagging concerns to be vetted.

A new organization, named the South/Maple Area Resident Redevelopment Advisory Council, has been formed to more effectively address the issues. We hope that this will encourage careful consideration in the drafting of the new RFP for South Boulevard/Maple Avenue.

Mas Takiguchi ran for village trustee in 2003 and 2005.

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