Last week the Journal reported on plans to build an affordable-apartment, mixed-use retail project on the vacant lot at Oak Park Avenue and Van Buren Street. 

That vacant parcel is best known for being vacant. And all gravelly. Mid-termers might recall the contretemps between the consignment furniture store next door and the bank that owns the lot over whether it was OK to park there when you picked up your bargain bar stools. When the bank put a fence up, that issue was made clearer. Old-timers will remember it as the Amoco station you never went to. If you’re really old, it was the Standard station you never went to.

So here’s my “Oak Park’s Not Open for Business” challenge to all my grumpy readers. Because, personally, I think this will be “the worst development ever in Oak Park history ever.”

What do I (and you) hate about this project?

The Community Builders Inc. website, is filled with handsome projects of all kinds. And all over the place, too. New construction. Rehabs. Urban. Suburban. Mixed use. Recreational. But even though it appears to be run by do-gooders, I’m sure these developers have an angle. 

The 37 apartment rentals are a mix of studios, one-bedroom and a couple of two-bedroom units. The first floor will have some retail. Good luck with that. Didn’t you hear retail is dead?! There will also be live/work units on the ground floor. Sounds like socialism, living and working in the same place. 

These are affordable units, the developer claims. However they define “affordable,” it can’t be right. They say the rents are for working people in Oak Park. Minimum wage and up. I say affordable is for cops and teachers who make $60K. Any other definition is wrong.

Our initial story did not spell out how much parking was being provided. So I assume there will be no parking whatsoever. Can you believe that? Not a single spot. The village government screws it up again. A new development with no parking.

Have you ever tried to park in the Southtown district? Complete nightmare. There have been times when I could not park in front of Avenue Ale House. Had to walk across that busy street and park in the village lot behind the bank. Oh, the humanity.

And being built by do-gooders it must mean the parcel is coming off the tax rolls. More taxes for everyone else to pay. Sure, they say it won’t come off the tax rolls. But who are you going to believe?

There’s a community meeting with the developers next Tuesday at the Maze Library. Bet they’ll get an earful.

Hinsdale redeems itself: On March 29 I trekked all the way out to affluent Hinsdale to have lunch with some associates in the newspaper business. I parked at a meter in the downtown district at noon. On my return some 90 minutes later I saw a ticket on my windshield. “Don’t worry,” said my newspaper industry colleague, “it will be a courtesy ticket.” And so it appeared to be. He said the police run license plate numbers and if you are not a regular Hinsdale visitor/violator they give you a friendly warning ticket. 

I got in my car, hummed a happy tune and returned to Oak Park.

Imagine then my shock and horror when on May 1, I received my “First Late Notice” from Hinsdale urgently requesting $25. I promptly wrote and said I had received a “Courtesy Ticket.” They promptly wrote back and said I had received a “Courtesy Ticket” at 12:34 and a “Pay Your Damned Ticket” at 1:16, some 42 minutes later.

I protested. “What’s the point of the generosity to a new visitor if you rescind it in 42 minutes?” I wrote. Lo and behold I persuaded them. “Citation will be voided, based on the circumstances presented,” said the missive received Saturday.

In the age of municipal red-light ticket robberies, a rare and satisfying victory. 

Thank you, Hinsdale.

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...