With word that Bar Louie is not long for Lake Street, it becomes apparent that a confluence of factors is turning the stretch of Lake from west of Marion all the way to Harlem into a quiet zone.
This occurs while Lake Street thrives from Marion to Forest Avenue with retail, restaurants and the sturdy Lake Theatre driving traffic and Marion Street and North Boulevard south of Lake holding up well.
So what gives? A few thoughts: Discount the perpetual vacancy at the old Marshall Field’s, or for more recent transplants, the old Borders Bookstore. It is a great and visible space. It has a lower level that will never again be viable retail. The upper floors are fairly well filled and generate cash. And while there is parking a half block north, the building has the feel of being parking deprived. Add to that the unmotivated and unimaginative family that owns the site and you have a prime vacancy that is likely to remain vacant. Not the fault of the village government. And not likely to be transformed into a boutique hotel no matter how often it is suggested in our comments or on social media.
The arrival of the new Target store clearly proves that there are shoppers nearby. But seemingly that store and its parking garage to the south has reoriented traffic patterns to the detriment of Lake Street retail and dining and it has diminished the stretch as a pedestrian destination. You’d need to hire a high-priced consultant to prove it up but it seems clear to us.
And finally we’d suggest that the soon-to-be clean sweep of retail and dining out of the base of what we all think of as the FFC building is certainly pegged to the higher property tax rates that new construction generates. This is problematic for a key frontage on Oak Park’s most important commercial street.