Like many of our readers, we get tired of saying, “It’s not our favorite building” as we watch large, sometimes tall, buildings rise up in Oak Park. To the consternation of some, we have been steady proponents of more dense development in and around downtown Oak Park. Building apartments and some retail along the Metra/Green Line makes nothing but good sense.
Add units, mid- to high-end, in the downtown and you create a front-line audience for the restaurants and shops all of us depend on and enjoy. You create opportunities for people to work in the West Loop and live in this great village, possibly without a car or with auto use minimized.
You also build the only tax base increases Oak Park will ever grow. If local taxing bodies controlled their spending, we might see some relief from what is becoming an unbearable burden.
New construction also funds Oak Park’s affordable housing fund. With a new, likely more progressive village board, it will be time to talk openly about why we don’t push harder for developers to include affordable units. We know they don’t want to. But would they relent under stiffer pressure?
This all comes up as the final notable development of Anan Abu-Taleb’s eight-year tenure as mayor was approved by the village board on Monday night. Drechsler, Brown & Williams, the funeral home building that had no future purpose, will now come down and be replaced by an apartment building that isn’t bad but is certainly not ambitious. It has nice features but, for its size, lacks charm.
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When all is toted up, there is only one hideous building constructed during this remarkable period of development. Take a guess.
It is the bland blob at Harlem and South Boulevard. And also at Maple and South Boulevard. And almost at Marion and South Boulevard. Would gladly have traded five more floors here for some relief from its unrelenting presence nearly anywhere you look up in the downtown.
Yes, it almost makes the Whiteco Building (which houses Trader Joe’s), attempting to be rebranded as Oak Park Apartments, look like a neat trick. Almost.