Oak Park getting 'out of the real estate business'

Village has developed most of its land into apartment buildings, condos

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

It was only a few years ago that Oak Park, in addition to being a municipality, police department, fire department and public works department, was also a major property owner.

It owned numerous parcels of land around the village, most of which were occupied by surface-level parking lots.

One of them was the site of Tasty Dog, a freestanding fast-food hot dog and hamburger joint at 701 Lake St. That's now the location of District House, a 28-unit luxury condominium development.

After half a decade of marketing the properties and working to attract developers to the village, Oak Park is getting close to getting out of the business of owning commercial property.

Village-owned land has been developed to bring in luxury high-rise apartments such as: Vantage apartments, 150 Forest Ave.; Eleven33 apartments, 1133 South Boulevard; and the Emerson Apartments, 1135 Westgate St.

Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said in an interview with Wednesday Journal that the shedding of village-owned land is not a change in philosophy about the municipality assembling parcels of developable property.

"It's not that I'm against the village assembling land, because that's good for the economy," he said. "But we shouldn't be sitting on land."

He said parcels that were purchased by prior boards were never developed, wasting years of earning potential. "When the village owns that it's off the tax rolls," he said.

Abu-Taleb was particularly outspoken about the mismanagement of the Tasty Dog restaurant, which ultimately was evicted for failure to pay rent and back taxes.

Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said the Oak Park village board's focus on developing land has helped move the needle in terms of revenue for the village.

"We've never been good landlords," she said.

The board's efforts have been greatly supplemented by a strong economy.

Oak Park's next big development project near the corner of South Oak Park Avenue and Madison Street will put another large parcel of land, long used as a parking lot, back onto the tax rolls.

The only remaining village-owned parking lot after that is a small surface lot on Marion Street, Pavlicek said.


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Alice Wellington  

Posted: November 14th, 2018 7:19 AM

This is great, and long overdue. The village should not be hoarding undeveloped real estate. However, the article neglected to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on remediation of the village-owned lots before "selling" them to developers. That should not be happening, either.

Robert Milstein from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2018 6:26 AM

The key here is "a good economy". Development is fine if planned and reasonable. Historic revisionism aside, our President knows that his building spree is not going to reduce property taxes, but he is correct that Village government should not be in the realty business. In some cases, it makes sense to but a building as an investment for the Village's long term benefit. Timing is everything. As to the hot dog stand, that was, initially, a moral fight to do what was right but it became less over the years , and was intertwined with political and economic issues at a later date. The Village should sell all of the property they own.

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