After referring two weeks ago to the four high-density structures in my Pleasant District neighborhood as “eyesores,” I am now compelled to reconsider. After going to Trader Joe’s today, my eyeballs encountered Oak Park Place Apartments, which looms over that business. What a drab, uninspired architectural effort. It has all the visual appeal of a Soviet-era block housing. Ah, but that location! Thus, by comparison, Cameron, Vantage, Albion and 1133 are — relatively speaking — gems. Costume jewelry level gems, however.
The Journal’s current issue also has articles about the Pete’s Market project and the wrangling over architectural design for what will eventually replace the Drechsler funeral parlor. As for Pete’s, it supposedly will “revitalize” Madison Street. Sounds great, but as the article noted, the new (and huge!) Pete’s will likely be calamitous for Carnival grocery, and Sugar Beet, two smaller and well established businesses nearby. But the village board vote was 6-1 in favor of Pete’s, with Dan Moroney offering his “sympathy” regarding collateral damage to other businesses.
Ah, the calculated cold-blooded concession to progress.
As for the Drechsler site, the article alluded to debate over the new structure’s height and potential jarring contrast to the immediate surrounding area. Rebecca Houze, a Historic Preservation Commission member, said it best, noting the “global significance” of Oak Park related to architecture, and poignantly asking, “What kind of monument to wealth, and to whose wealth, will this building be?”
Whatever goes up in place of the funeral home, this site, more than all the rest of the recent developments, will, in bitter irony become the place where architecture, 21st-century style in Oak Park, came to die.
Joe Harrington, Oak Park