A need for support: Meet at 201 Harrison at 11 a.m. on 11/11, spread the word.FILE 2011/J. Geil

Imagine that your home has a beautiful living room (Marion Street) and dining room (The Avenue). Your guests love to spend time dining and being entertained in these lovely well-designed rooms.

Now imagine that your entry hall is in disrepair with cracked walls, peeling paint, un-even floors and poor lighting. Do you ignore the problem, dim the lights and hope your guests won’t notice?

This is Oak Park, our home. The Harrison Street (Oak Park Arts District) corridor from Austin Boulevard to Ridgeland is the entry to our lovely home off the Eisenhower Expressway and the CTA Blue Line and it is in disrepair. Yes, a plan was in place to “streetscape” the Arts District several years ago, which we are still awaiting. (See this link to the 2008 plan: www.oak-park.us/Planning/Harrison_Design_Plan.htm.)

It would be wonderful to get new lighting, signage, sidewalks and pavers, but the real issues then (and still) are the vacant, under-utilized, under-maintained, and now collapsing properties in the community.

For several decades, the front door and entry hall to our lovely community has been held hostage to a few neglectful property owners. (Another case of the 1% getting all the cookies!)

Solutions? There must be some. We are a creative community. Start with eliminating the policies that allow these property owners to hold onto vacant properties for not just years but decades! There is a wonderful group of creative business and property owners in the district making decisions on lease renewals, advertising and reinvesting their hard-earned profits back into the district, not to mention homeowners and families that are impacted by the long-ignored situation on Harrison Street.

Please join us on Nov. 11, 2011 at 11:11 a.m. for Unity in our Community. Three months after the building façade at 201 Harrison collapsed into the street, we will be standing united at Harrison Street and Lombard Avenue to collect letters to the Village of Oak Park with questions, solutions and positive intentions for the community.

Bring your letters, bring your support and join us as we start the process of renovating the Entry to our Oak Park HOME.

Pamela Penney
Pamela Penney Textile Arts
Oak Park

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