The Oak Park village board enthusiastically endorsed a request from Downtown Oak Park for $42,008 to develop the green space on the Marion Street mall into an “entertainment/picnic area” at its regular meeting Monday night.
Some of the cost would go for additional picnic tables for the site.
Pat Zubak, DTOP executive director, said her office looks out on the two picnic tables now at the space, where the Sawyer Business School building used to be.
“They’re constantly being used, constantly, and the weather isn’t even that good yet,” she said.
The plan calls for a 6-foot mulched strip along the back portion of the green space, where additional picnic tables would go, and for electric service to be added for entertainment to coincide with Thursday Nights Out and its new Outdoor Fridays coming this summer. Tables and chairs would also be added at the northwest corner of Marion and Lake streets.
The improvements would be an interim step before more sweeping changes will be made as part of opening the mall and Westgate to vehicular traffic and building a parking garage on North Boulevard.
Most trustees were enthusiastic about the proposal, as well as one Zubak said was coming: a request for $90,000 to support a rebate promotion starting in August when Holley Court garage parking will diminish because of expansion construction there.
Trustee Robert Milstein asked the board to increase the amount for the Sawyer site to $50,000, in case more picnic tables were needed.
However, Trustees Elizabeth Brady and Ray Johnson, and President David Pope cautioned against approving expenditures without outlining when and why the board would approve them.
The issue was informational only Monday night, and will later come back to the board for formal approval.
Heitzman should be paid: Baker
Before the board approved a contract with Hasbrouck Peterson Zimoch Siriattumrong (HPZS) for architectural and planning services related to restoration of the Colt building, Trustee Geoff Baker said the firm should pay another firm for its ideas.
A majority of the board had previously selected a group led by Oak Park architect Frank Heitzman to look at how the village should proceed in restoring the building. However, after a maelstrom of criticism that Heitzman could not conduct the process objectively, some trustees reversed their votes in favor of HPZS, asking the firm to look into using some of the ideas proposed by the Heitzman group in its response to a village-issued Request for Proposals.
Baker, an intellectual property attorney, said, “I hope Mr. Zimoch [an Oak Parker who attended Monday’s meeting] understands there’s some value in those ideas” and asked Zimoch to reach out to Heitzman’s group “and to trade value for those ideas.”
Baker said that was only fair because the board negotiated with Heitzman in good faith before reversing its path just before approving a contact with the group.
Elizabeth Brady, who was key in reversing her support for Heitzman, explained her decision further Monday night.
“My concern is that debate [over Heitzman] … would distract the community from the ultimate goal” of rehabbing downtown, Brady said. She said the village still is not moving fast enough to make changes downtown.
Baker and Milstein voted against the HPZS contract.