By unanimous vote, Oak Park’s village board last week approved construction of 10 high-end townhomes on North Avenue at Humphrey. Trustee Jim Taglia, who has long owned the underutilized parcel, recused himself from the discussion and vote. Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla raised the issue of affordable housing as it might apply to such a development. She, too, voted in the end to approve the project.

Two points: We have long favored adding residential developments to the endlessly long stretch of North Avenue from Austin to Harlem. Built for another era, the current mix of retail and office space no longer works with increasing vacancies and permanent obsolescence guaranteed.

On that basis, this entirely private and within-zoning-code deal is entirely a plus. Also a plus is the developer’s intention to build fairly high-end units on what is a not-high-end stretch of North Avenue near Austin Boulevard. This suggests confidence that potential buyers in the $500,000 and up category will see the appeal of new construction in a part of the village that is not downtown, not along the Metra. 

There is a pending plan to build luxury units at Madison and Lyman. Again, a healthy sign that every part of Oak Park has the attention of private developers. Meanwhile planning continues on an affordable housing and retail project at Oak Park Avenue and Van Buren. That project has earned a subsidy from Oak Park’s affordable housing fund. This is the sort of blending of market and affordable that doesn’t happen by accident.

We have a long way to go to make affordable housing work better. How do we define affordable? How do we fund affordable? How do we mix affordable and market in the same new development projects? We can do better. But attracting private development to unexpected places is all good.

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