Madison Street commands attention in all three villages this month, with public meetings scheduled throughout June.  Each community is faced with the same issue:  How do we increase the tax base through development in order to stabilize residential taxes while improving the character of the community?

OAK PARK – Monday, June 13, 7:30pm at Village Hall:  Public Meeting to Discuss Madison Street Development

Madison is oft considered the vast wasteland of economic potential, the result of years of “doing nothing” according to Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb.  The proposed “road diet” has pitted area residents wanting a narrower, safer, walkable street against residents concerned about diverting traffic into nearby streets.  Interestingly, the game-changing idea to spend TIF funds to curve the road for economic development in a four block stretch east of Oak Park Avenue seems almost lost in the bickering about public meeting protocol.

FOREST PARK – Tuesday, June 21, 7pm at Forest Park Historical Society: Town Hall to Discuss Video Gaming Organized by Chris Harris

Forest Park’s stretch of Madison used to be the gold standard for Oak Parkers wanting their own funky retail business district.  Yet, everything goes in cycles.  Despite urban legend, businesses there face the same struggles for profitability and relevance as their neighbors across Harlem.  Small business is hard.  Revenue growth is no certainty.

The community now fiercely debates video gaming to augment the retail revenue stream.  Given the concentration of restaurants and bars, Madison Street is a focal point.  Video gaming could be a revenue boon to businesses and taxing bodies.  Video gaming could impact the character of the street.  Big issue.

RIVER FOREST – Monday, June 27, 7pm at Village Hall: Village Board Meeting

The north side of Madison from Lathrop to Thatcher belongs to River Forest.  This quiet strip represents one of few opportunities in River Forest for meaningful development.  A proposed TIF includes some residential lots in addition to the commercial frontage.  While this gives the Village flexibility to extend TIF-financed improvements to property owners, impacted residents want out. This is curious, as inclusion should offer more protection as Madison Street develops.  Important conversation.

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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...

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