The easy thing would have been to give up on the high-rise residential development at Lake and Forest in Downtown Oak Park. At many points over the past seven years, either the succession of development teams or the succession of Oak Park village boards could have, with cause, said enough.
As the groundbreaking for the 21-story glass tower finally took place last Thursday we were grateful that both sides persevered despite many, many obstacles. Some of those roadblocks were beyond the control of either party. There was the death of a major funder in an auto accident. There was the collapse of the national economy, the freezing up of financial markets, the collapse of banks.
But what can we learn from this near endless ordeal that we can bring forward to the coming development plans in Oak Park? Government has to move much, much faster in its reviews, in its hearings, in its approvals. Village boards should never again be asked which type of window they prefer. Government needs more faith in market forces. The heavy pressure from village hall to make this a hotel project ate up 18 months and the end of the real estate boom.
Set fairly wide parameters. Create urgency and efficiency in approvals. Pick the points where essential fights need to be had. Step out of the way.