Over recent decades we’ve been supporters of Oak Park’s efforts to tighten commercial zoning uses in key business districts. Why spend millions on bluestone sidewalks facing a storefront that houses a podiatrist or a loan office? The investments in Downtown Oak Park, the Pleasant District, the Hemingway District were to create an ambiance fostering shopping, dining, a night at the Lake Theatre.
It all sounds perfect.
And then the world intervened. Amazon has mightily undermined bricks-and-mortar retail. DoorDash and GrubHub have made dining out less attractive. And COVID has ruined everything from democracy on down to browsing at the Book Table.
So it makes good sense that Oak Park is now looking at loosening its retail-and-restaurant-only zoning policies in key commercial districts. We’ve already begun to make exceptions. The Zoning Board of Appeals has three variance requests on its docket this week. But forcing small businesses to jump through zoning variance requests is discouraging in a hard time.
With regret, we hope a middle ground is reached.