The families on the 400 block of North Maple Avenue would like to acknowledge the individuals and groups with whom we have spent time discussing the continuing process of fighting a proposed four-story condominium building on this block (this structure would involve razing three vintage homes and encompass two pieces of property).
Many of these individuals have wanted to help?#34;some were in a position to do so. But, as of this writing, to no avail. Absolutely no one, from friends and neighbors to local business owners to people in village governance, with whom we have spoken, is in favor of the proposed structure. People looking at the plans have agreed that the design for the building is grotesquely out of size and almost laughably out of character with this beautiful, long-existing neighborhood.
As was written in a letter to the trustees, “… it would appear as though some game of developmental Monopoly had gone terribly wrong.” In a town known for its architectural and historic heritage, the drawings for this building are an embarrassment!
The people responsible for causing our battle, call themselves developers, but that’s not the case. To develop something implies healthy growth and gradually planned transformation, an investment for the years to come. These people are not interested in developing neighborhoods. They are not interested in investing in neighborhoods. They are interested only in profiting from them.
When part of a neighborhood is “developed,” what’s the first thing that happens? It is almost immediately torn apart, and neighbors are put in a position of having to go along because to go back is worse than where they are now. We, the neighbors, are put in a position of forced acceptance.
In our case, the owner/developer hung onto the properties at risk for many years, and allowed them to deteriorate. We are being told that their proposed structure will be better than what we have now. This will supposedly save us from living with the present eyesores they have created. In essence, we guess, they will be saving us from themselves.
Are we so interested in providing fair and equal business opportunities that we have actually hurt the people we intended to protect? Somebody has to help the little guys stand up against these buyers and sellers of communities. We, these little guys on North Maple Avenue and many other neighborhoods in Oak Park, are not afraid of doing some hard work. We have done what everyone in position to help have suggested?#34;and then some. When is it enough?
We never expected anybody to do the work for us. But now we’ve done it, we’ve proven our point. We have had commissions and boards agree with us throughout this ordeal. And in the end, have we only succeeded in becoming a poster child for absurdly inappropriate development. Will other neighborhoods use us as an example of what they don’t want to become? It would be truly heartbreaking to find that standing up for the future of our families, our homes and ultimately, our community, came down to this, “… a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” Oak Park is under siege by individuals and corporations poised to turn it into someplace in which we all chose not to live. Let’s not let it happen this way, for any of us.
Ken Hogrefe, Amy Reed-Hogrefe
On behalf of the 400 North Maple Avenue neighbors