Last week while walking along Lake Street, I passed the former Colt building site.
That’s the site where the long-contested building (and one directly east, plus one to the south on Westgate) was originally scheduled to be razed, if memory serves, by May 15. In its place, we were told, a parking lot would appear. Parking lots don’t provide much in the way of sales tax, but it’s better than a gaping hole. A parking lot would, on the other hand, provide much-needed revenue for the village parking fund. It also offers something else Oak Parkers value quite highly: Oak Parking.
But we don’t have a parking lot. We have a gaping hole. The deadline for finishing the work was postponed to Aug. 15. The company they chose to do the job had problems – one of them, reportedly, involved a labor dispute (which is ominous). And there was some talk about inexperience handling a project of this size.
Anyway, Aug. 15, as you’ve no doubt noticed, has come and gone and, though the buildings are gone, the gaping hole is still there.
No, wait! The hole is gone, too. As of last week, the crater had been replaced by … a lake. The hole has filled with water, and not the kind one would be tempted to take a dip in.
A lake! Did they tap into Oak Park’s mythical underground river? Did they hit a water main?
According to Village Engineer Jim Budrick, it comes from the water table, which happens to be closer to the surface at this particular location (read more on page 12).
A lake on Lake Street. Imagine that. Maybe a beach with umbrellas, some paddle boats, a couple of gliding swans …
The plan, however, as I understand it, is to simply fill in the hole whenever they finally get around to creating the parking lot.
God knows when that might be.
Really, are we asking too much? You fight over a building for several years. No one wants to (or can afford to) build anything in its place for the indefinite future, so you tear it down, pave it over, paint some lines for cars, add some pay stations. This isn’t rocket science.
It’s now been four months, and I’m beginning to think we won’t get our parking lot in time for the holidays.
A parking lot isn’t ideal, but taking down those buildings has opened up the Downtown Oak Park shopping district nicely. It’s more aesthetically pleasing. Airy. Less claustrophobic. The extra parking will probably help existing businesses. It’s not the greatest scenario, but not the worst either.
I was about to say the worst would be a lake in the middle of the largest shopping district in Oak Park, but I can’t even say that because who knows what might happen there next.
The village board (in its various motley incarnations) has made a mess of this location for most of this decade. If the Luddites hadn’t taken over, we’d have a mediocre, unimaginative shopping area, built by Sy Taxman, already up and running over there. It wouldn’t thrill anyone, but it would at least be generating sales taxes. Unfortunately the board(s) screwed everything up, step by expensive step, with horrifying inevitability, like watching a slow-motion train wreck, each board blaming the last (or the next) for what went wrong.
So maybe we should call Oak Park’s newest inland body of water Lake Karma. Or Lake Ineptitude. This place seems more cursed than Wrigley Field.
The village needs to cut bait (so to speak), if necessary, and find someone, anyone who knows how to build a parking lot. Is it too much to expect this project to be finished sometime this year?
If so, then let’s stock Lake Karma with fish and start issuing licenses.