It was distressing to read of a heroin death at 855 Lake Street [Girl dies of apparent overdose in OP building, News, Nov. 16]. Neighbors of the building have long suspected that the building’s poor and deteriorating condition was a breeding ground for drug use or worse. This isn’t the first incident. In April there was a shooting in the alley behind the building, and it was reported that the perpetrator may have escaped there. Police cars are frequently outside this menacing building. Oak Park doesn’t need notoriety like this.
This blighted building presents another serious challenge to our reputation. A failing wooden retaining wall on the property of 855 Lake is threatening. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple, its neighbor to the west is considered to be one of the most famous buildings of the 20th century. In 2009, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Unity Temple one of the 11 most endangered historic places. Unity Temple currently is being considered as a World Heritage Site, which would be a remarkable designation sealing Oak Park’s reputation as the birthplace of modern architecture.
The owners of 855 Lake St., Leonard and Sara Stann, should be held accountable by the village to replace this wall with a modern concrete structure up to today’s standards. You reported the village was going to inspect 855 Lake St. for interior code violations. As important, the Stanns should be asked whether they intend to repair the wall.
If Mr. and Mrs. Stann don’t have the intention or the money, the village should consider condemning the property and inviting worthy civic uses consistent with the building’s location within the village’s designated cultural and educational district. We don’t need another building collapse attributable to a negligent owner like the recent Harrison Street debacle, especially if it’s near a Wright icon.
We should rally to this cause, not just to keep our village safe from crime but also to protect the vital architectural heritage which attracted many of us to Oak Park.