I largely agreed with Dan Haley’s tongue-in-cheek op-ed on how the village spends money for development [Bricks over bucks for Lake Street, News, June 11]. Oak Park has invested a lot in streetscaping, and the return often seems minimal in terms of development or business activity.
But I do take issue with Mr. Haley’s implication: Either we shell out $1.5 million to bring in desirable businesses like Pete’s Fresh Market or we spend the money on streetscapes. First of all, we need to distinguish between dealing with a single property (like the shuttered Dominick’s on Lake Street) and revitalizing a business district. Incentives may be all that’s needed in the case of one property. But business districts can languish without attention to code violations and longstanding vacancies (as Mr. Haley points out). An intelligent comprehensive plan may be necessary to guide revitalization efforts. Zoning may need revision. Improved maintenance of streets and sidewalks may be necessary. More intensive policing may be required. More parking may be important. Economic incentives may be key. And streetscaping may be vital, too, in changing the district’s look and feel.
In short, a lot of things usually have to happen to revitalize a business district. It’s true that streetscapes alone are rarely enough. But they can be a valuable part of the mix when coupled with savvy business recruitment and the other elements identified above. Look at what Berwyn has done with the south side of Roosevelt Road. Let’s learn from their example. That’s what we’re aiming to do on North Avenue.
Chair, North Avenue Zoning and Development Advisory Committee (NAZDAC)
Co-founder, North Avenue Neighbors Association of Oak Park (NANA-O