Banners went up on Oak Park Avenue last Friday encouraging people to support local businesses during the Oak Park Avenue renovation project. The two banners also serve as a reminder that the construction work will end, and the street will reopen mid-May.

Reading, “Thank you for supporting local business,” the banners are part of an effort to step up communication and outreach to support the Southtown Business District  which is being impacted by construction to replace water and sewer mains under the street near where it intersects with the Eisenhower Expressway.

One banner is located at the southwest corner of Oak Park Avenue and Harrison Street, while the other sits at the northeast corner of Oak Park Avenue and Garfield Street. Light pole banners will go up in the next week, according to Jim Prescott, of Prescott Group, which is facilitating project communication.

The banners were the idea of Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb, who suggested the idea of putting up signage in the district to inform people of the project’s expected end date. The wider discussion was about the Southtown Business District’s incentive requests at the village board’s March 22 meeting.

Many of the requested incentives did not receive the recommendation of staff or the board’s approval. Such requested incentives included a moratorium on parking fees for the duration of construction, the enforcement of which would pose major difficulties, according to the village’s director of community and economic development director Tammie Grossman.

Southtown Business District also requested the creation of a shopping rewards program, similar to the Better Lake Street Rewards Program, implemented during the Lake Street reconstruction project. The comprehensive Lake Street reconstruction began in March of 2019 and wrapped up this past November. In comparison, the Oak Park Avenue project is much smaller.

“The area will only be closed for two, maybe three months as we’re trying to get out of the area as quickly as possible,” said Grossman.

Part of the reason staff and village board did not support implementing a shopper rewards program at the request of the Southtown Business District was that the village of Oak Park does not have the ability to facilitate it.  Downtown Oak Park facilitated the Lake Street program, which encompassed three business districts. The program did not perform as it was expected.

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