The Village of Oak Park is rethinking its plan to install a $200,000 granite planter in front of the village’s newest high-rise at the corner of Lake Street and Forest Avenue.
In the meantime, a large hole surrounded by orange construction barrels takes the place where the planter would have been located.
It is the second time the village has reconsidered plans for that section of the streetscape in front of the Albion Oak Park residential building at 1000 Lake St.
Originally, the village planned to install a decorative water feature in front of the building, but that was downgraded by the Oak Park Board of Trustees last year in an effort to reduce the cost of a $10 million downtown streetscaping project.
That streetscaping project, which includes Lake Street from Harlem Avenue to Euclid avenues, was originally planned to take place this summer but was delayed while the village focused on other projects, such as the so-called “road diet” project to reduce the number of lanes on Madison Street.
One of Albion’s newest residents is not pleased with the delay.
Andrew Yule, a vice president of development for Albion who also is a resident of the building, testified before the Oak Park Board of Trustees at its Sept. 9 meeting, identifying himself not only as an Albion executive but also as a taxpayer.
“We spent nearly half a million dollars on our streetscape,” Yule said, noting the work the development company did on the sidewalk around its high-rise.
“Part of the commitment from the village of Oak Park is to provide us some kind of entry into the downtown district, and today we have a big hole sitting there with some construction cones waiting for something to happen,” Yule said. “I’m not forcing you to make a decision one way or another, but I don’t want to see a hole.”
Yule added that Albion’s development is a $100 million investment in the village. “I think we’ve done our share as a developer,” he said.
Village engineer Bill McKenna said at the Sept. 9 meeting that the village put the project out for public bid in July and received only one response.
He told trustees that the village worked to secure funding commitment from the nonprofit special service area organization Downtown Oak Park and from Albion, but neither entity would commit to helping fund the project.
“Staff is recommending rejecting the one bid we did get for that project,” McKenna said.
McKenna said in a telephone interview that as part of the planned development, the village did commit to installing the planter in front of the Albion building as well as installing street lighting and upgrading traffic signals at the intersection.
He said the short-term fix, until the streetscaping project next year, is to hire a landscaper to fill the hole with dirt and install plants. McKenna said he does not have a cost yet, but estimated that the quick fix would cost a couple thousand dollars.
He said the village would put the permanent project back out to bid in January and that the planter would be included in the larger streetscaping project planned for 2020.
The entire Lake Street streetscaping project is expected to cost $10 million, about $3 million of which will be funded by a federal grant.