The development community has three weeks to craft and present a fully formed, well-financed, LEED-certified, mixed-use project for the village-owned parcel at Madison Street and Oak Park Avenue. And, by the way, those judging the proposals will want to know the retailers you have actively on the string, and it might be better if you also had several other adjacent commercial parcels under contract to really make this project a humdinger.

Now you might say three weeks is a short while. Or you might state the obvious, which is that the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation and the village government have been actively negotiating with a single developer for many months and are now going through the motions of a required RFP.

Or as Trustee Colette Lueck succinctly put it at a meeting last week, “All that groundwork has been done ahead of time and with what I would feel is some level of transparency. But if you don’t know where to look and you don’t know where to listen and you just see an RFP is being issued, you might not understand the transparency.” 

Lueck is right. While the name of the specific developer — Jupiter Realty — may not have been public until last Friday and the potential scope of the project might be slightly larger than initially thought, the bones of this project have been entirely clear to anyone paying any attention.

Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb campaigned three years ago on a pledge to bring new development beyond Downtown Oak Park. The village board rezoned Madison Street last year and decided to focus its development efforts between East Avenue and Home. Abu-Taleb has repeatedly told the Journal of his specific goal for a large, mixed project at that corner and his hopes that it would include land to the east of what the village owns and also on the south side of the street. And then there has been the very public discussion of “the bend,” a potential curve on the street designed solely to create more square footage on one side of the road for a development.

These, friends, are good clues. You could have followed them via the pages of Wednesday Journal, by attending any number of public meetings, by following Facebook. There is a befuddling effort by a handful of people to suggest some sort of conspiracy is at work. That’s nonsense.

We are strong supporters of development on Madison and are eager to see the details of the coming proposal. This nearly vacant street needs housing and retail, restaurants and parking. It needs the opportunity to be the focal point of a new community, a part of the dynamic residential community already in place to its south.

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