There is inevitably some face-saving underway. As Oak Park prepares to remove the granite pavers that constitute the crosswalks at Marion Street and South Boulevard and replace them with fancy-colored concrete the word from village government is that no one could have predicted the volume of the car traffic at the corner.
Well, 11 years back, when Marion Street was remade from Lake to Pleasant, the village government already owned the property at Harlem and South and was lusting after a high-rise development for the site. It took a while but eventually Oak Park landed the mostly hideous and entirely gigantic mass of the Eleven33 apartment complex owned by Lincoln Properties. It came with cars!
Since then three high-rises have risen in downtown Oak Park, there is a mid-rise coming up a block south at the old funeral home property and another mid-rise under construction on Lake across from the library.
Like it or not — and we like it — adding substantial density to the greater downtown Oak Park area has been the plan for 20 years. It’s why the village kept overpaying for property.
The simple truth is that the high-end streetscaping on Marion Street was definitely handsome, very expensive and not built to last in the environment Oak Park was working so hard to create.
As further streetscaping has subsequently occurred along Lake Street from Harlem to Euclid, the village learned some lessons. The building materials became more sustainable and more affordable. Still handsome, still destination-worthy, but not so over-the-top, and likely to last more than a decade.
And it would be worthwhile for village officials to simply acknowledge that.