Christine Burdick, 72, the longtime head of the Downtown Oak Park business district as it evolved from the former Oak Park Mall in the late 1980s, has died in Florida at 72.
Burdick was hired in 1988 as executive director of the newly created Downtown Oak Park Corporation. Her arrival coincided with the village government’s decision to reverse course and tear out the 14-year-old pedestrian mall that stretched along Lake Street from Harlem to Forest avenues.
It was a costly and controversial decision — just as the choice to close Lake Street and Marion Street to remove cars and create a park-like shopping experience had been in 1974 when the Oak Park Mall was created.
“What we are trying to convey is a feeling of inviting people in, rather than creating a barrier to keep them from coming. The street will be a 24-hour advertisement for the stores,” Burdick told the Chicago Tribune in November 1988 as the street reopened just before the holiday shopping season.
Burdick went on to work for the city of Chicago during the Richard M. Daley era and also chaired the International Downtown Association.
She was hired to revitalize the Lincoln Road Mall in Miami and then went on to a long and successful stretch as president and CEO of the Tampa Downtown Partnership. She led that group from 2002 to 2017.
During her tenure, Tampa’s downtown core underwent “a near total overhaul” with new condominiums, a waterfront park and two new museums, according to her obituary in the Tampa Bay Times.
Andrea Zelman, Tampa’s city attorney and a member of the downtown partnership board, described Burdick as “a warm, gracious, intelligent, thoughtful person.”