Oak Park Village Hall has rolled out the welcome mat to developers on Madison Street, opening the commercial corridor up to residential real estate development.
The Village Board of Trustees approved the zoning rewrite last month, and Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb says it’s a sign that Oak Park is open to new development.
The zoning change establishes a retail core between Clinton and East avenues and opens the remainder of the street to residential development.
Arista Strungys of Camiros Ltd., which assisted in the rewrite, told village trustees that the street has more than 100 overlay zones with various regulations that are confusing to developers and serve as a deterrent.
“Nobody knows what they can do. The uses are very confusing,” Strungys said last month. “The idea is that as development keeps looking at Madison Street, how can we simplify this and how can we create a district that can take advantage of the situation now?”
Abu-Taleb touted the zoning change at a recent public event, saying, “Outside that core area you can build townhomes, you can build multiunit residential buildings, so please, make a note of that, OK? Tell your friends, all right? We want developers. We want investors to build multi-unit buildings for residents and we want townhomes on Madison Street.
“Madison Street is the heart of our community and we’re going to be focused on Madison Street for the next few years.”
Other businesses that are prohibited from the core retail area include gas stations and fast-food restaurants.
Abu-Taleb said in an interview that the village has been discussing rezoning the street for some time but decided to expedite the work because uncertainty had slowed investment on the corridor.
“It’s too long of a corridor to have it filled with retail from one end to the other,” he said.
Over the last year, the village began working to attract development, particularly to the corner of Oak Park Avenue and Madison Street, where a village-owned parking lot exists.
John Lynch, executive director of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation, said he believes the change will open Madison Street up to new development opportunities but said it is “a little early to say its attracting attention yet.”
“It will be incumbent on us to get the word out to developers that there’s more flexibility in the zoning code,” Lynch said.