The proposal to convert a middling downtown Oak Park retail and office building into a Holiday Inn Express Hotel is on a fast track. Monday evening the Oak Park Village Board followed the unanimous recommendation of the Zoning Board of Appeals and approved a plan by the building’s longtime owner Azim Hemani.
Beyond needing a special-use permit to construct a hotel in downtown, this project fully complies with existing zoning in terms of parking and height — even after three stories are added to the top.
There are likely still obstacles ahead for a project of this size. But we are enthused that a modern hotel will be coming to downtown Oak Park. Whether for Wright tourists, local university visitors, or business people looking to avoid the Loop, Oak Park has long hoped there was a viable market for a hotel. Now it seems there is.
Converting an office building that has never been fully successful into this new use is a plus for Oak Park. Finally, making fuller use of the Holley Court garage is all to the good though we agree with the zoning board that many of the visitors to the Holiday Inn will be arriving by ride share or means other than personal auto. That should mitigate concerns over congestion.
The hotel is another step in the transformation and reinvigoration of Oak Park’s downtown. This is good news.