Last Thursday night, on the eve of the long 4th of July holiday weekend, Oak Park’s Plan Commission gathered for the first of a rat-a-tat-tat series of meetings to consider, but let’s face it, basically to approve, plans for a new development project on Lake Street in Downtown Oak Park.

Unless we all get a mighty surprise, in a little more than three weeks, the commission will forward its positive recommendation for the Colt project to an eager Oak Park village board. That board will happily sign off, too. Then the onus shifts to the two developers who, after eight years of procrastination and economic collapse and mutual lolly-gagging, will be required to put shovel to ground by early November. 

How to explain this urgency? How to explain a plan commission meeting aimed at constructing a 22-story high-rise of pedestrian design and a turnout by citizens that can be counted on one hand?

Cynics might point to the awkward pre-holiday timing of the meeting. We’d suggest that Oak Park’s long fever has broken, that the rational majority has reasserted itself and declared that change has its place, that thoughtful but notable economic development must be a component of our village’s forward plan. It is clear that a new message has been sent from village hall that timely development is welcome and that a mutual commitment to that development from both the village and its business partners is the expected norm.

Do we wish this project were a bit more architecturally ambitious? We do, though we fall back on our low bar and pronounce this effort to be far better than the hideous Soviet-era Whiteco project on Harlem. That said, going forward we look for future projects that have not been pent up in the chutes for a half-decade to offer more compelling design. Right now we will be more than happy to see this last vital piece of the downtown area successfully built, and leased up to both commercial and residential tenants.

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