The Village of Oak Park is considering giving a facelift — complete with a walled-off bike lane — in 2011 before a pot of more than $4 million in TIF funding expires.

Oak Park sent out a request to architecture and planning firms last month, looking for companies that are interested in reinventing Madison from Austin Blvd. to Harlem Avenue. Responses were due back on Monday, and the winning firm would have four months to cook up a design for the project. Twelve responses were received to the request.

It’s still too early to say what the redo might look like, as Oak Park will wait to see how firms respond, said Craig Failor, village planner. They hope to have the list of contenders whittled down in the next week or so.

“Once we select a group that we know can do the job, then we’ll refine the scope,” Failor said, later adding, “We want to see what they come back with to see what we can actually do in the corridor with the money we have available.”

Oak Park has a TIF (tax increment financing) district along Madison Street, which Failor says has between $4 million and $6 million in it. A TIF is a fund created by freezing property taxes in a specified geographic district at a certain level. Increases in future tax revenues above that amount are funneled into the TIF for use in development and infrastructure projects designed to increase long term economic development.

The Madison TIF expires in tax year 2016, but because of a 1995 agreement with elementary school District 97, the dollars need to be spent or allocated by the end of 2011. That’s why Oak Park wanted to “get the ball rolling” on Madison as soon as possible, Failor said.

With responses to the “request for qualifications” in hand, village staff will need to have a conversation with the village board in the coming weeks to see if elected officials want to redo the street or use the money for other incentives to spur economic development on Madison.

The RFQ, which Failor said has generated considerable interest, asks firms to come up with ideas to make Madison more walkable, sustainable and developed in a way that enhances the street’s historic character. It also asks them to envision a segregated bike lane along the road,

Oak Park is budgeting $150,000 for engineering work on a possible Madison redo next year, according to Chief Financial Officer Craig Lesner.

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