Want to make yourself entirely nutty? Try making sense of Oak Park village government’s efforts to determine what commercial areas must be reserved for retail, which areas could be retail or service, or this week when a strip designated as “retail-only” is determined to be just right for a dentist’s office.
If you’re looking for logic, consistency — or even just following the rules the village itself put in place — then you have come to the wrong discussion.
Last week, the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals granted an exemption to the “retail overlay district” that lines Lake Street on either side of Oak Park Avenue. The 4-1 decision, which is binding and not subject to village board review, will turn the former home of Flybird, a prime retail storefront, into a dentist’s office, likely for many years to come.
We find this decision absurd. This is absolutely a viable retail street from Caribou Coffee to Papaspiros and Geppetto’s Toy Box, from The Great Frame-Up to Red Hen Bread. And it is a rare example of where village planning went exactly right as the mixed-use retail and condo building constructed to village specifications at Lake and Euclid completed and elongated the retail corridor.
How the zoning board could conclude that a retail space that had hardly even gone on the leasing market (after Flybird’s closing) constituted a hardship case that only a deadly dull dentist could remedy is beyond reason.
We are fans of the Sheehan brothers — Jack and Tim — who own and lavish love on the Medical Arts Building, a handsome Art Deco structure that includes the Flybird space. But simply moving a dentist from an upper floor to prime retail is not doing their building or their business district any favors.
If the village government wants to play commercial God and dictate what business can locate where, then sooner than later they have to get their act together. Recent months have been incongruous. The $5 million invested in South Marion loveliness does not result in a retail-only designation. The unimproved 100 block of South Oak Park Avenue does get the retail-only label. And on Lake Street, a strip where the village had already made the right decision, they go handing out flaunt-the-law cards to dentists.
This is amateur hour.