Car-charging station in downtown Oak Park jolts up controversy

Merchants frustrated by lack of village notice

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Parking in Oak Park usually brings out some frustration.

The case of the newest IGO car-sharing charging station sparked some negative electricity to the subject – although this time, the village mended its oversight once the business community fired back.

Merchants say the sky-blue solar-powered charging station being built on North Boulevard between Forest Place and Marion Street is a pre-holiday disaster. The aesthetics of the structure itself have a few merchants scratching their heads, but more importantly the merchants worried about construction taking up 23 parking spaces – especially during the holiday season.

Downtown Oak Park and merchants say there was a lack of communication between village leaders and businesses that would suffer through the change.

Karen Morava, owner of CarefulPeach Boutique, 1024 North Boulevard, said she's most frustrated that no one in her retail world knew the fencing would be going up, nor the construction happening.

After retailers howled, most of the spaces were returned – with the exception of handful of spaces that the structure itself takes up – but Morava was still frustrated with the process.

"The village never bothered to consult with anyone," she said. To her knowledge, this included the property owners, business owners and DTOP leaders.

The damage has since been minimized, and spots near her business have returned. Morava said she was pleased with how the village was able to fix the communication and space mix-up quickly.

"It looks like someone listened to our letters," she said. "And they pushed forward. I am thrilled about that."

Morava is also confused why the village allowed IGO to put this particular structure in an area that is in the middle of popular events, like Oak Park's annual Oaktoberfest. In downtown Oak Park, particularly where new development may happen soon with the Colt building location, scarcity of parking already can be an issue, Morava said.

"Four spaces doesn't seem like a lot, but it means a lot to business owners," she said.

A letter to the village board from Jason Smith, owner of the Book Table, also expressed that the lack of communication with business owners. He said the episode demonstrates a perfect example of the ongoing frustration businesses owners have with the village. His business, which does a large chunk of its sales during the holiday season, needs proper parking in the district for its customers, he said.

Smith said the concept of an IGO station is a good one for the village, but the execution of the agreement, and communication with those it impacted most, was poor.

"Apologies after the fact mean nothing," he wrote in the letter. Being on Lake Street, his business is sheltered somewhat from this problem, but he mentions in the letter the negative impact the structure and missing spaces caused for businesses on North Boulevard.

Jill Velan, Oak Park's interim parking manager, said as of today many of the parking spaces are back and ready for use and despite the construction going on for another week or two (contingent on weather). Parking is open and available near the structure, she said.

The agreement between the village and IGO, the car sharing company, allows for the installation of two electric car-charging stations along with public charging stations. The deal was approved in 2011, but because it was a regional plan, it was unknown when Oak Park would see the stations.

Once Oak Park officials heard back from IGO, which is covering all costs, construction started Oct. 21. The company promises to finish by Dec. 14. Fencing was supposed to be down last week, but weather issues kept it up a week longer than anticipated, Velan said.

While construction finishes work vehicles and supplies will only be there – taking up parking spaces – during weekday hours. Velan said all spots will be open during evening and weekend hours.

Email: Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

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Business owner from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2013 2:40 PM

This should have been placed along the south side of the Metra tracks where dozens of parking spots are unused. I-Go members heading to pickup the car there could just as easily head to the other side of the tracks, since they are probably not shopping in the district anyway. Maybe they are heading to Oak Brook.

Chris Carrier  

Posted: December 3rd, 2013 2:14 PM

I think the design is appropriate for its use, blue seems to be the color of electric charging stations. Perhaps painting it a less "electric" color would please some. Nonetheless, other than the timing of construction, I think this is a good thing for OP residents, and this location that will serve many non-car owners. The griping about OP government and general dissatisfaction with OF/RF buzzes so loudly on this site it drowns itself out.

RF Lifer  

Posted: December 2nd, 2013 8:56 AM

Meanwhile, while you guys in Oak Park worry about charging stations, etc., we have our own set of problems with a brand new fire truck....

Jack Hughes from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: December 1st, 2013 10:20 AM

Shop Oak Brook !!!

OP Resident #752 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 30th, 2013 10:24 PM

I'd rather have the (former) car spindle from Berwyn than this POS in the middle of DTOP.

dystOPia from OP  

Posted: November 30th, 2013 10:17 AM

As per the village resolution (April 1, 2013) authorizing this EV charging station on public property, the installation was to have been competed by Sept. 30. Also, the village agreement was with the nonprofit I-GO Alterrnative Transportation, Inc. (IGO CarSharing), which was purchased on May 28 by the private-firm Enterprise Holdings, parent company of Enterprise CarShare. IGO's car sharing service will continue to be offered under its current name as part of the Enterprise CarShare network.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: November 30th, 2013 8:07 AM

I hereby place into consideration and nomination that the structure be forever known as The PoJoCo Electric Co.


Posted: November 29th, 2013 8:33 PM

I suggest we wait until the project is completed before we complain about it. I do agree the Village should consult and at least advise the business people of issues that impact their businesses. That is what I was hoping our new Village President would bring to the table.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: November 29th, 2013 1:14 PM

A question that needs to be asked....on whose authority was this project approved & executed, i.e. who is the individual who decided to place this monstrosity where it is? That person should be summarily fired for incompetence. Placing this ugly structure in the middle of a large retail parking area offer no value to OP residents or businesses. None. I'm a user of car-sharing services, but the placement of this structure is stupidity of the highest order. Heads must roll.


Posted: November 29th, 2013 12:24 PM

The arrogance and incompetence of the leadership at village hall is astounding. The Village Board should stop making excuses for them and step in and address it.

Village Voice from Oak Park  

Posted: November 29th, 2013 12:13 PM

Umm... since, I am told, we are milliseconds away from breaking ground on both the Forest & Lake and Colt debacles, errr developments, couldn't this have been more sustainably and less intrusively integrated into the design for either of those? As far as aesthetics, perhaps those can be improved by re-using material from the failed bluestone speed table on Marion. Those wee electric cars oughtn't to be to rough on the delicate bluestone pavement.

dystOPia from OP  

Posted: November 28th, 2013 1:18 PM

The nonprofit I-GO was purchased by the private -firm Enterprise Holdings, in May, 2013. Enterprise Holdings, based in St. Louis, owns the flagship Enterprise Rent-A-Car brand as well as National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car. Enterprise has been acquiring car-sharing concerns, and I-GO was the last major independent remaining. Since the car charging facility is on village property (i.e. public property), how is the village being compensated for this private and for-profit usage?

Complainers from Oak Park  

Posted: November 28th, 2013 12:32 PM

Why should they get the parking? What is that ugly structure? Why does it have to be free? Why does Oak Park have to be on the cutting edge of things? Why do they get to park closer? Listen to you. What a bunch of belly-achers! How about you be patient and wait until it is completed and stop complaining about everything!


Posted: November 28th, 2013 12:16 PM

Free parking for electric cars isn't enough, now it is coupled with a prime parking location. To enjoy this latest benefit I guess I will have to trade in my two hybrids, otherwise the only thing I get out of this is what? Oh right, another shining example of sustainability to swoon over. Does the Village get a portion of the fee for the recharge, and how much does that add up to for four cars at a time over the course of 24 hours?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 28th, 2013 11:50 AM

If the project is free, OP will jump on anything whether it is ugly or useless. The board should establish a policy to make decision based on need. That is; make believe it is your money before making a decision!!!!

Scott from Oak Park  

Posted: November 28th, 2013 11:48 AM

My wife and I have wondered what this awful looking structure was and now we know. Good for iGo for wanting to use electric cars, but the location is awful and the design is as well. Looks like a bus stop that isn't.

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