Over 30 years now, we’ve watched instances of citizen outrage grow organically and then exponentially in Oak Park. Oak Parkers can get a good mad on, and you don’t want to be standing in the way when a core of the offended gets set in motion.
That’s not how the recent and minor contretemps over the proposed 20-story mixed-use project at Lake and Forest has felt to us, though. Through letters to the editor, multiple appearances before the Oak Park Plan Commission and some lame picketing, a small group of deeply offended folks have been trying to stir the pot over this project. There was even the paid ad in which organizers threw everything they had at the project, including charges that the village was, once again, madly shoveling money to an unworthy developer, that the village board was dimwitted and would destroy downtown Oak Park once and for all.
If we’ve learned anything in recent decades, it’s that downtown Oak Park is indestructible. No matter how many ways it gets diced and eviscerated – department stores decamping, Whiteco rising, the Colt moldering, the mall, the un-mall, parking garages invisible to the naked eye – it will survive as a shopping destination.
So, now, finally, when the village government comes nearly through with a development project that we find architecturally invigorating, economically balanced and openly planned, we’re enthusiastically onboard.
Casual readers, be assured, this is no money grab by a developer. Claims of a looming parking shortage in the downtown are overblown. And, yes, of course, operators of two independent local hotels are unenthused about a subsidy (maximum of $500,000 and none of it from property taxes) to lure a hotel to the site. That doesn’t mean a modern, nationally known and promoted hotel won’t lift all of our tourist boats in the village.
We support this project. We’re impressed that the locals didn’t take the bait and fly into an anti-development rage just for kicks, or out of force of habit.
The village board will soon approve this still-improving project. Then we will see if Sertus Capital Partners has the muscle to get it financed in this still-gloomy marketplace. Developer Michael Glazier and his Sertus backers have been worthy contributors to the process.
So kudos to the village board and staff, to the developer, and to the citizenry, too.
Potty mouths and politics
We get the objection lodged directly, and we suspect surreptitiously, last week by Fitness Formula Club to the prospect of River Forest voters possibly approving construction of a bare-boned health facility as part of the rec center proposal on the ballot Tuesday (after our press time). It’s the same argument private gymnastics centers lob at park districts when they expand publicly subsidized facilities for little tumblers. It’s the frustration health clubs feel about fancying up the YMCA when it charges less because it doesn’t have to pay property taxes.
But the skullduggery employed in placing anonymous ads, making an anonymous last-ditch mailing and setting up a faceless Web site opposing the referendum is disturbing. These pieces were all riddled with misinformation. And naming this little charade with an acronym high on the word rotation of fifth graders makes you wonder who’s running such an organization.
This is not how we do politics in River Forest and Oak Park.