In a surprising turnabout Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb led the way last week for Oak Park’s village board to unanimously approve spending $400,000 from the village’s sustainability fund to match a potential grant for the park district’s proposed community rec center

In the past, Abu-Taleb, who has had a frosty relationship with the park district since his first days in office, criticized the Madison Street project, fearing it would be paid for out of increased property taxes. For its part, the park district has long pledged to raise the capital for the $22 million construction cost from both its reserves and through its park foundation via private and public donations. So far it reports that $11 million has been earmarked.

Specifically, the park district is applying for a $1.6 million state grant which would augment the building’s sustainable features. The $400,000 from village coffers would go toward making the building operate with zero emissions.

This page has also been skeptical about the rec center project and its potential impact on property taxes. The funding effort to date though has been impressive. And the park district has been plainspoken in its pledge to both construct the project without adding property taxes and to operate the building at break-even via fees. Its success operating the gymnastics center on Lake Street based on program fees is impressive.

For his part, we’d assume that Abu-Taleb is also eager to fill another gap-tooth spot along Madison Street on his way out of office in April. He can point to considerable success in remaking a desolate Madison Street over his eight years though it has not come without critics. 

The parcel where a rec center would rise has long been owned by Mary Jo and Stephen Schuler who are donating the property to the park district. Mary Jo Schuler is a co-chair of the project. The Schuler’s Good Heart Work Smart Foundation is also a donor to Growing Community Media, the nonprofit owner of Wednesday Journal.

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