Oak Park sent out a whopping 143 copies of its request for proposals (RFP) for the Colt building and other redevelopment sites downtown, according to the village. Responses are due back Feb. 15.

More than 60 percent of the original batch of 100 copies sent out went to preservation and restoration specialists.

“We’ve made an extra effort to add those to the list,” said Bob Clements, Oak Park’s redevelopment director.

But one developer from whom the village should not expect a proposal is Sy Taxman, of Taxman Corp., who previously prepared a redevelopment plan for a major portion of the downtown “superblock” area bound by Harlem, Lake, Marion, and North Boulevard.

“We felt that the board didn’t accept all of the time and effort that was put into” the previous plan, Taxman said. “We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, and we were flatly rejected.”

Taxman had hoped for a negotiated redevelopment agreement with the village in fall 2005, when a village board-appointed steering committee recommended a plan for the superblock that was in many ways similar to proposals Taxman’s architect had drawn.

The plan called for demolishing the Colt building, 1125-35 Lake St., in favor of a new street; created four new corners of retail at Westgate, and called for a 500-car parking garage and opening Marion Street to auto traffic.

The deal hinged on a “put-call” purchase agreement on the Colt building. But when a majority of the village board favored preserving the Colt, and when Taxman refused to include the Shops of Downtown Oak Park (Pier 1 Imports, Old Navy, TGI Friday’s) in negotiations, talks between the developer and the village foundered. The village soon found itself purchasing the Colt and 1145 Westgate building for a combined $7.5 million, and issuing RFPs to study preservation options.

A study released last summer showed preservation to be costly-at least $7.1 million. So the latest RFP was issued last fall with the hopes of testing the real-world options for development downtown. In a separate plan, the village will begin revamping Marion Street this spring and plans eventually to build a parking garage on North Boulevard.

Sending the RFP to 143 architects and developers is unusual, Clements said. The village sent the RFP-electronically, to save paper and postage-to 100 people first; the rest requested a copy from the village.

Taxman Corp. was not one of the 100 that had a copy delivered to them.

“Let’s face it-it wasn’t an amicable parting,” Clements said.

Mud was flung between Taxman and some members of the village board as the negotiated deal fell through.

Taxman still had plenty to say about the village board last week in a telephone interview.

“I hope it is a different board,” Taxman said, responding to a suggestion that two of the trustees serving in 2005 have since resigned. “And I hope it’s a more different board after the election.”

Clements said timing of the review of RFP responses likely will not allow a vote on the issue before the April 17 election.

But Taxman was critical of the RFP also, saying its scope is too limited. “You have to have an overall master plan.”

The only way he would be interested in developing downtown is if he were allowed to sit down with the board in a negotiated agreement. In the past, some at village hall have praised negotiated agreements for being the best way to get exactly what a board wants in a development for the right price.

But others point to the Whiteco boondoggle that cost the village millions and the developer years and caused many to criticize such developments as not being open to public scrutiny. The board has since enacted a participatory planning process that ensures an open process in developing all publicly owned properties.

RFP responses for the village-owned property at 826-28 S. Oak Park Ave. are also due Feb. 15.

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

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