On Jan. 5, the Village of Oak Park Plan Commission held their first public hearing of 2023 to consider a zoning amendment for the property located at 6536 Roosevelt Road. The property’s current status is a vacant lot after the purchase and demolition of the building that had been the Salvation Army resale store. The application for the zoning amendment and variances was submitted by agents for Turano Baking Company with plans to expand the office and/or plant’s parking lot.

I did not attend the public hearing or submit comments because I don’t have any objections to Turano’s plans. The parking lot extension provides the bakery and/or office workers valuable benefits. The finished project certainly will be an improvement over the condition and appearances of the former building. Also, after Turano purchased the nonprofit Salvation Army parcels, they began generating property taxes. Undoubtedly, this is good for all stakeholders, including the village of Oak Park.

However, this parking lot is another example of the abject failure of the village and the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation to attract meaningful redevelopment on the north side of Roosevelt Road. There are at least two proposals, each for wistful projects at separate locations; one for a privately owned EV charging lot at 6104, the other is for a “mixed-use” development, to include entertainment, at 6000 Roosevelt. It’s open to speculation as to the future of either, but especially the latter. It seems more likely that U.S. Bank was just dumping the former branch (as with others in Oak Park and beyond), selling it for less than 40% of the value conservatively estimated by the Cook County Assessor.

A windshield survey of the properties along the 1.5-mile, primarily commercial corridor reveals a significant number of vacancies and dreary building facades. There are also problem buildings, as recently exemplified by the troubles at 6212 Roosevelt. This all adds up to little or nothing to show for Oak Park.

Christopher Donovan
Oak Park

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