In a rare admission that this page gets hungry midday, we admit that last week lunch took us to a window stool at Chipotle on Lake Street. As we assessed the scene across the street, we were again reminded that the Colt building carries all the stature of any building clad in pressboard. We repressed angry feelings that can impinge on digestion and ignored the two wasted years spent trying to “Save the Colt.”

Instead we will focus on the future and the considerable progress the village is now making on remaking the Colt and surrounding parcels which make up the so-called “superblock.” The village board last week narrowed the design contest among developers from five to three and sent that trio off with $10,000 apiece and the expectation they will return in March with more fully considered proposals.

We also agreed with the board’s decision on which two developers they voted off the island. A locally backed proposal to use the site for a medically-oriented development was seriously inconsistent with the opportunities ahead in Downtown Oak Park. The other developer put too much focus on the reuse of existing buildings, which we do not favor. They also mentioned possible subsidies which ought to be simply out of the question given the prime nature of this site.

We do not want to prejudge the remaining three developers but we would make these points:

• We are persuaded that a hotel with a banquet facility and modest convention-hosting potential ought to be a priority in reimagining our downtown. Whether it is at the Colt site or at Forest and Lake, a higher end hotel needs to be part of the plan. Ironically, the Colt site is roughly situated where Oak Park’s first hotel, the Kettlestrings Inn, was located.

• The opening of Marion Street only whets our appetite for another north-south street connecting Lake Street and North Boulevard. Such a street, variously dubbed New Street or Station Street, will both enhance auto traffic and create additional, highly visible retail spaces and is a must in any new development.

Momentum is building here. The village staff and board get the credit. We can hardly wait until March.

City sidewalks filled with holiday ice
Three ice storms into its brief existence and the failure of the toney stone sidewalks on Marion Street to heat up looks like a goofy boondoggle. Truth is, though, that after all the rushing by the village to get Marion Street ready for its shopping debut, mid-November, the delay in getting the heated sidewalks heated is not with the village. No, it is with everyone’s favorite monopoly utility, Commonwealth Edison.

Everything was in place for heated sidewalks–except for ComEd to plug the heating coils into the electric grid. It was supposed to be done by Oct. 31.

And they wonder why their public image is poor.

Please, no rush to judgment
Word is that the Zoning Board of Appeals, after hearing six more hours of testimony, plans to make a decision in January on installing lights at Oak Park and River Forest High School’s stadium.

We would urge caution.

The overall debate on lighting the stadium has only gone on for six years now and last week’s meeting ended early – just after 2 a.m. We’re certain many salient points have yet to be repeatedly made. What’s the rush?

On the other hand, even if zoning – finally – OKs the lights in January it would likely be years before ComEd showed up to plug them in.

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