Don’t read the comments. Don’t read the comments. OK, I read the comments at OakPark.com on our story about the planned Pete’s Market coming to the village-owned corner of Madison Street and Oak Park Avenue.

A few thoughts: Thanks, Pete’s, for investing again in Oak Park with a second store. Tens of millions of dollars of your money, not our taxpayer money. You think having two stores a mile apart will work. You seem to know your business, so I hope you are right. If you are wrong, thanks for investing tens of millions of your dollars in Oak Park. Better luck next time.

Oh my, the crappy, poorly run, cramped Jewel a few blocks east on Madison might go out of business. Yep, it might. Would be long overdue. And Jewel’s corporate owners ought to be embarrassed by that store. No one seems happy to be there and the three for $12 watermelon barely lasts 24 hours. I know this because I shop there fairly often.

Furthermore, there were long discussions with Jewel about building a new store where Pete’s is going. Seemed like a done deal until corporate got cold feet. Their choice not to reinvest in Oak Park. Their choice to effectively disinvest in Oak Park with that poorly managed, understocked, unhappy store they’ve owned for 50-plus years.

Responding to the nostalgia craze for the subpar Jewel, one commenter made the sage observation that, yes, the Jewel may close. Likely outcome, given the residential housing boom currently, happily reshaping Madison, is that a developer would pick up the Jewel box, demolish it, try to assemble other obsolete or underused commercial property all the way to Ridgeland and propose new housing. 

What a win that would be for our property taxes, for our effort to continue to boost the local population. Or is someone going to get mushy about the Budget rental car place with its trailer on stilts at the back of the lot? Too late to declare historic status for the old Shell station that became Billy’s Fruit Market, that became empty nearly a decade ago and was urgently demolished this year before it tumbled down. 

Oh, my, the old Packard car dealership that has been empty for 20 years will not be preserved as part of the Pete’s project. Great building. Love to look at it. Let’s take pictures for posterity. But it is a hundred-year-old car dealership that no one has found a use for in two decades despite many attempts.

 One of the changes to Pete’s proposal is to spend a fair amount of extra money to build parking under its store for its employees so there will be more parking for customers. This is a good thing. Makes it impossible, seemingly, to preserve an old building when you are digging a big hole for underground parking. 

The truly fabulous gargoyles on the building’s exterior, featuring images of auto workers with their tools, will be preserved and used somehow in the new construction. Good job. Now forward.

The greater length of Madison Street has been commercially obsolete since the car dealers decamped for Countryside and Elmhurst in the 1970s. The first and only news article I had published as a freelancer in the Oak Leaves in the late 1970s covered this very topic. That’s 40 years of obsolescence, of lost property taxes, of big-time ugly.

When Pete’s is built. When a somewhat scaled-back senior project goes in across the street taking out another obsolete car dealership. When new apartments go in replacing another underused old car dealer building at Madison and Gunderson. When the apartments are finished at Lyman. When the townhouses are fully built out at Home on the site of the hideous old District 97 school headquarters. Now that a long empty nurses’ dorm on the Rush Oak Park Hospital campus at Maple has been demolished and rebuilt as a state-of-the art ER. Then we will have a new Madison Street and it will be one of the great accomplishments of village government in recent years.

So stop the nostalgic crabbing. This is all good news. Celebrate. 

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...

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