The apartment project at Madison and Gunderson, approved last week by a 6-1 vote of the village board, is oversized. Even with modest tinkering pushed on the developer by frustrated neighbors and the Plan Commission, it is only a marginally improved project. It will impose itself over the neighborhood to the south.
Doesn’t mean we were surprised by the outcome. Critics can allude to greased wheels but the simple reality is that six years ago Oak Park very consciously rethought zoning on Madison Street and overhauled it to focus on residential development. It was a smart plan to turn around one of Oak Park’s most forlorn commercial stretches.
For 40 years, much of Madison Street languished after auto dealers took off for the far suburbs. Nothing happened. Hope that the long stretch would ever recover and become a fully occupied commercial district was a pipe dream.
Credit Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb with pushing hard for a new set of zoning regs that finally allowed residential apartments, townhomes, and condos to be built. Now from almost complete apartments at Lyman and Madison to the townhomes at Madison and Home the street has purpose and is beginning to pump out property taxes.
We remain confident a new Pete’s Fresh Market will arrive at Madison and Oak Park, that an also overlarge senior development will replace the vacant Cadillac dealership on the south side of the street at Euclid. It will be an astounding turnaround for a moribund street.
Yes, we wish the Gunderson project was a floor shorter. But we’ll be glad to see the derelict old auto building bite the dust. And we’ll wait to see what is still possible in the days ahead.