The bluestone sidewalks, granite curbs and brick street were always more ambiance than we cared for, or thought the village government could afford, on that fancy stretch of Marion Street. That’s why as endless committees have debated the inevitable need to rebuild Lake Street, from the century-plus old sewer pipes to the tippy-top of the curly-cue light fixtures, we’ve always argued for moderation.

A flourish of brick at key intersections, pavers that accent but don’t stick up to trip you, a few bump-outs to accommodate our currently endless desire to eat curbside, would be fine by us. You could leave the granite for kitchen countertops and have you looked lately at those stained bluestone sidewalks?!

The village board took $5 million out of an initial $20 million plan to remake Lake fully from Harlem to Euclid and to repave it all the way to Austin Boulevard. They could have taken out another $3-4 million by our measure.

But the project is getting near to going out to bid and construction is pegged to start in 2019. We have a few thoughts:

This is an essential infrastructure project. The water and sewer pipes are ancient and inadequate. Don’t be surprised, but the same issue exists on Oak Park Avenue from Ontario to Pleasant. This project isn’t driven by new tall buildings along Lake Street; it is driven by trying to stay ahead of major water main breaks.

The biggest challenge is on Lake from Oak Park Avenue to Euclid. It seems to be the vortex of infrastructure hell. Current plans are for all traffic and parking to be eliminated for up to four months, possibly in spring 2020. 

Special care for those businesses will be required. Somewhere in the $15 million, the village government will have to find some funds to support marketing for the independent businesses in downtown Oak Park and the Hemingway District. We want to end this hard project with most of those businesses intact. 

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