Oak Park has unique development opportunities on Lake Street between Ridgeland and Austin, planning consultants told the village board last week.

Originally zoned industrial, the south side of Lake features deep parcels of land with no residential neighbors.

“Let’s not hide this area,” urged Bridget Lane of Business Districts Inc., a subcontractor of Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB), which studied the Lake Street business district. “It could really be highlighted as an investment area.”

SCB produced a 160-page master plan for the Lake/Austin area that also includes South Boulevard. The consultant has proved to be a village favorite, after having first completed a similar study of the eastern portion of Chicago Avenue, and the village will hire the firm again to study the western portion of Chicago near Harlem.

Lane said there is $1.6 billion in consumer spending power in the area around Lake and Austin, with 50,000 employees within a five-minute drive, so commerce can go on day and night.

She identified two grocers in the business district, ALDI and Dominick’s, as both anchors and catalysts for future development. Both businesses have improvement plans: ALDI has said it will expand onto its parking lot and build parking above its store, while Lane said Dominick’s is planning interior renovations.

Lane described the area as a “complete neighborhood” where one could live car-free. Priorities for the area, she said, should help the anchors expand, then try to attract restaurants, a drug store and better service businesses. She said a big-box store, such as Best Buy, could open in the district if an urban model with garage parking is used.

“There really is a lot of change opportunity” throughout the entire district, said Christine Carlyle, vice president of planning at SCB.

If the Tennis and Fitness Center of Oak Park ever wanted to sell its property, consultants said, it could be combined with the Dominick’s property to create 4.5 acres of developable land. Lane said the tennis center could work as a second-floor use, although she emphasized that she was talking about long-term hypothetical planning.

The plan includes a 100-plus-page appendix outlining the historic preservation possibilities in the district, a study completed by Oak Parker Mike Iverson.

Trustee Galen Gockel said he is eager to see redevelopment of properties across the street from Dominick’s, now populated by “really a potpourri of marginal uses.” Plans have been announced for redeveloping two properties there that had single-family homes on them.

Village board members praised the report for the quality and amount of its information while being easy to read. The board is expected to formally adopt the plan at its Jan. 16 meeting.

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

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