We are writing to second the sentiments expressed in Ken Trainor’s column, “Moving ahead, honoring the past” in the March 20 Wednesday Journal [Viewpoints], and are grateful he pointed out that development and preservation aren’t mutually exclusive undertakings, as so many seem to think.

As residents of the 500 block of Wesley Avenue, less than a block from the Hill Motor Sales Building at 644 Madison St. and the location of the new Pete’s Fresh Market, we welcome a new Pete’s to our neighborhood and urge Pete’s owners, the developer, and the architect to incorporate as much of the Hill building into Pete’s as is possible, for several reasons:

1) The Hill Motor Sales Building was deemed landmark-worthy by every member of Oak Park’s Historic Preservation Commission and has been determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. As Frank Heitzman and Frank Lipo have written, the Hill Building “is the best preserved and most striking architectural design left from the time when Madison Street was the west suburban capital of auto sales.” In a village known above all for its historic architecture, preserving and repurposing the Hill Building is the right thing to do.

2) Reusing and repurposing the Hill Building is better for the environment than tearing it down and building something new. In the words of Oak Park’s Stephen J. Kelly, a historic preservation specialist, “Will we continue to watch as pollution-spouting equipment turns usable buildings to rubble; more polluting equipment hauls away discarded building materials — concrete, brick, metal and glass — into a landfill to be abandoned? Or can we try a new way that is gentler on the environment?”

3) Since this redevelopment is being subsidized by $8 million in TIF district funds and other taxes, taxpaying citizens should have a say in how the money is spent. We do not want our tax dollars spent on a generic grocery store with a long, blank, undistinguished façade stretching for two blocks along Madison Street. Instead, we imagine a unique, inviting store incorporating, and inspired by, the beauty of the old building. That is how to responsibly use our tax money.

In a Sept. 1, 2015 article in the Tribune about Pete’s first Oak Park store, Vanessa Dremonas, executive officer of Pete’s Fresh Market, said this: “Every single Pete’s Fresh Market is custom-designed to their community. We do our homework before we open. We want residents to know we don’t just turn the key and let them in.” 

This statement gives us hope that those involved with this development, in Mr. Trainor’s words, “can do development and preservation and do both of them well.

Debbie Mercer, Dave Mercer, Kathy Wyman, Lisa Wilkinson, Doug Waco, Sandy Pedersen, Scott Pedersen, Karen Mullarkey Kerrins, David Ubogy, Beth Dowell, and Lisa Hoelscher

Oak Park

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