How will demolition of the high school parking garage at Lake Street and Scoville impact businesses?  Not much, actually.

As you know, OPRF plans to build a $37.5 million aquatic facility on the parking garage site.  Construction should begin next summer and finish mid-2018.  Current fund balances will cover $20 million while $17.5 million will come from non-referendum bonds.  (That is, unless residents are able to collect 4,211 signatures in a petition drive to force a referendum.)

The parking garage has 300 spaces, of which 225 are filled on a typical school day.  All are filled when there is a special event.   Demolishing the garage will put those cars on the streets.  Village Staff and the Transportation Commission are reviewing plans to accommodate the spillover into the neighborhood.

Village Staff recommended on November 23 no changes to the current area designated for OPRF parking bounded by Ridgeland, Chicago, Oak Park Avenue and Souths Blvd.  Rather, permit changes (mostly from residential or time-restricted to staff) could allow the area to absorb the additional cars.

Other than more congestion, especially for tradesmen or delivery drivers in the neighborhood, the businesses are not seriously impacted.  Metered spaces on the blocks around Lake / Oak Park Ave and on Lake between Ridgeland and Scoville would remain.  Parking on Ridgeland between Lake and Ontario would remain 2-hour restricted.  Metered spaces would remain at the corner of Ridgeland and South Blvd.

However, as staff parking seeps outward, Hemingway business employees may struggle.  Current plans call for Euclid, Ontario and most of Erie to accommodate additional OPRF staff.

Special events are another story.  Prior to the November 23 Transportation Committee meeting (which I didn’t attend and can’t speak to), there was no plan for absorbing the large influx of cars for graduation, Farmers Market, athletic tournaments or Back-to-School Night.  Staff recommends investigating the Avenue Garage as an option.  This definitely would impact the Hemingway District, which relies on the garage for customers and employees. 

Business leaders will want to weigh in if that option takes hold. And BTW: expect a third huge construction project on Lake Street next year.

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Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...