Village boards in both River Forest and Oak Park made bold moves Monday night. Bold, if you can consider bold, actions to move ahead on projects 10 years on the drawing board.
In River Forest, the village board approved construction of a mixed-use project at Lake Street and Lathrop. Luxury condos, and mainly restaurant use on the ground floor, will rise five stories on a site that right now is a mish-mash of uninspiring storefronts. The plan for this site, seen by successive elected boards as key to creating something akin to a downtown in River Forest, has been known for more than a decade. Serious soil contamination from a dry cleaner on the block, the real estate depression that hit in 2008 and the inertia that oddly infected the preferred developer for far too long, all created a perpetual stall of this worthy project.
Sure, some locals made the usual noise that the project was too tall, too dense, lacked enough parking, and that the design was somehow inadequate. Happily, the village board powered through that limited opposition and have finally set this project into immediate motion.
Over in Oak Park, Monday, a unanimous village board took the seemingly modest step of approving a $65,000 contract with a consultant to study traffic patterns and volume along Washington and Jackson boulevards. How can this be notable? Only because it sets up, a decade later, some sort of final action to retool the four-lane portions of Madison Street into a street more approachable by pedestrians and bicyclists, especially our school-age kids, more conducive to new residential and commercial development, and more in keeping with what are, on either side of Madison, terrific residential neighborhoods.
So-called “traffic-calming” measures are ripe for teasing. Hard to come up with a more jargony government term than “traffic-calming.” Doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea.
In recent years, as this page has often made plain, Oak Park’s village government has effectively turned its eye and its resources to Madison Street. To have attention paid to a commercial area that is not downtown Oak Park is a victory in and of itself. Changes in zoning, several modest to medium successes in development, and soon-to-be approved changes in traffic patterns all set this street up for a notable new mixed-use development of village-owned property at Madison Street and Oak Park Avenue.
And important not to lose track that multiple decisions on Madison have a Dec. 31 deadline as the TIF is set to expire and money in that fund will need to be, at least, committed to specific projects by then.
In both River Forest and Oak Park, our village boards, for the most part, work. Good to see headway on these long-discussed, long-delayed projects.