Map courtesy of Google

I planned an illuminating column on property taxes.  However, my journey to Oakbrook Center inspired a last minute change. 

For local urban planners and those of us who spend our days thinking about our business community, Oak Brook is our nemesis.  The parking, the convenience, the plethora of stores, the Apple Store, the lovely ambience, and carefree outdoor mall:  the implication is “main street” cannot compete.  When tackling an issue locally, invariably we hear, “the business owners / village government / development people better be careful because residents can just go to Oak Brook where it is easier.”

Well, on Sunday I went to Oak Brook.

I needed a specific shelving unit from the Container Store.  Wanted to assemble immediately or I would have ordered it online.  Quick trip? Not so much.

First, it is easy to get lost within the campus unless you are looking for an anchor store.  They may want to meet with Oak Park’s wayfinding signage consultants.  The outer ring traffic circling the mall was unbelievable, poorly regulated by inconsistent stop signs and incoming vehicles.

None of the fabled parking was to be found.  The surface lots were a mess of cars driving in all directions, ignoring pedestrian walkways, threatening fender benders and honking liberally. Drivers jockeyed for position hoping to claim parking spots from shoppers heading back to their cars.  I found myself trapped in an unlikely convergence of restaurant valet, loading zones, curbside drop-off and driving lanes.

In the end, I parked in a parking garage far from the store.  Yes, a parking garage.

Once inside the store, people were friendly but busy.  I waited awhile for assistance. Eventually a woman helped me and wheeled my clunky items from the stockroom to the cashier.  When she offered to hold them so I could continue shopping, I yelped, “no!”  Time to go home.  And, I still had to battle to retrieve my car and jostle for a loading zone spot just to pick up the items.

No, thank you.  This so-called mecca is an over-crowded mess.  Next time, I go online for what I can’t get locally.  And BTW, our Apple Store is Gala-Tec.

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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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