Anan forum draws opponents of Madison Street plan

Residents argue development will bring noise, traffic, rats

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Oak Park residents, many of whom live near a stretch of Madison Street slated for a massive mixed-use real estate development next year, spoke out in opposition to the proposal at a town hall forum held Tuesday night by Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb.

Resident Richard Holland said a number of factors have contributed to neighbors' belief that the project, which would completely rebuild the streetscape between Oak Park and Wesley avenues, narrowing the road to two lanes and bending it to increase the developable area on the south side of the 700 block of Madison Street.

Holland noted that Jupiter Realty – chosen earlier this month as the preferred developer for the project following a public bidding process – already has begun seeking commercial tenants on the online commercial real estate marketplace LoopNet.

"I've already seen the listing where I can already lease space in these buildings," Holland said. "If it is a grocery store, it's going to bring rats and all sorts of unfortunate things I would rather not have at the end of my block, but yet I have not heard from anybody at the village or the board to ask us our thoughts on this or get input."

Abu-Taleb said there would be multiple public meetings set next year to receive input from residents on the project proposed by Jupiter and that picking the preferred developer was one of the early steps in the process.

He reminded residents opposed to the project that it would largely be paid for with funds from the Madison Street Tax Increment Finance District, which is set to expire in 2018. Abu-Taleb said it could be the village's last opportunity to redevelop the area and called the current state of Madison "an embarrassment for the community" that could be transformed into an alternative to downtown Oak Park.

Holland said he was not opposed to redeveloping the area, but he did not believe a grocery store was needed at the corner of Madison and Wesley near his home.

"Why is it a grocery store?" asked Bernadette Homberger, noting that the street already is home to a Walgreens, Jewel-Osco and Sugar Beet Food Co-op.

Abu-Taleb said it would be difficult to attract a developer for the properties without a large anchor. He said the road must be reoriented to bend to the north to make the lot on the south side of Madison large enough to accommodate the grocery store.

"This developer is like everyone else; no anchor, no developer," he said.

Sandy Pedersen, whose home is directly south of the proposed grocery store, said she worried about noise associated with grocery store loading docks, squealing car tires from customers pulling into the parking lot and rodents attracted to the store. Pedersen said the village has yet to reach out to the neighbors to discuss the plan and that the project "feels like a done deal no matter what I say."

Transportation advocate Ron Burke, who serves as director of the Active Transportation Alliance, which lobbies for safer bicycling and transportation options, said bending the road -- a so-called "road diet" that reduces the number of lanes from four to two – would have a calming effect on the corridor making it safer for drivers and pedestrians.

Burke said he did not believe the proposal would result in heavier traffic in the neighborhoods, a concern that residents have voiced over the last several months as the project has become public. The Active Transportation Alliance issued a recommendation in 2014, stating its support for narrowing the street.

"The 1.5 miles of Madison Street through Oak Park is not safe," the recommendation read, noting that the roadway experiences two crashes every three days – about 235 per year – on average.

"To put this in perspective, the Madison crash rate was roughly twice that of Lake Shore Drive, which IDOT says is one of the most crash-prone roads in the state," Burke said in 2014.

The village is expected to continue its review of the Madison Street project next year with a series of public meetings intended to further explore and vet the proposal.


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Reader Comments

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Jim Coughlin  

Posted: December 17th, 2016 9:00 PM

You're right, Maureen. Some longtime Oak Park residents may still refer to Downtown Oak Park as "The Mall". We actually lived in an apartment in the area and I worked on the stage crew for the free concert series presented as "Summer on the Mall". About the only time people jammed the Mall was when a well-known headliner was performing. Acts like Chubby Checker, Frank Sinatra Jr., Maynard Ferguson, and Franz Bentler were big draws. But most of the time the streets and stores were pretty much empty. No one was too upset when the paving bricks were removed and traffic returned to Lake St. By then it was too late and the business district never fully recovered. Lots of contributing factors but the fiasco that was "The Mall" certainly had a negative impact. I also recall that the Stankus Hole property was eventually developed and without the assistance of taxpayer support and TIF funding. Is the "road diet" scheme doomed to produce disappointing results? The plan's boosters will argue it will be an unqualified triumph but based on the TIF track record; it's another high risk gamble.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: December 17th, 2016 2:34 PM

Interesting that Jim Coughlin brings up the fiasco of the downtown Lake Street mall - I wonder how many current residents have any real idea what "fiasco" that references? My guess is less than half. Here's a link to a story from Jan 1988 - but a quick explanation is that it was a 14 year experiment from 1974 to 1988 that closed Lake St. to traffic and created a pedestrian-style mall to increase sales on that retail strip.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: December 17th, 2016 2:13 PM

Should the Madison Street TIF be allowed to expire in 2018 and do you support an extension? That's a question every candidate seeking election to the Village Board should be willing and prepared to answer. Voters need to know who favors continuing the failed program that resulted in millions of tax dollars squandered with so little to show of anything being actually accomplished. The "road diet" scheme may become the biggest fiasco in Oak Park's history since the Mall!

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: December 17th, 2016 8:51 AM

To expand Mr. Grossman's comments, won't putting Madison on a diet only push more traffic onto Washington Boulevard? You do remember that Julian, Fenwick and Brooks are all located on that street?

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: December 16th, 2016 11:27 PM

In April 2007, Dennis Marani, chair of the Madison Street Coalition, said at the village board meeting that the coalition would speed up the development on Madison Street. Nine years later (2016) there has been no progress, no speed, no developments, no business documents, and no record of proof of that the coalition really recommended the Madison Street Road Diet?" Last summer, the board shut down the 2007 Madison Street Coalition after the village staff reported that they could not find the 2006-2007 records. In September, the board formed a new Madison Coalition with new members and new duties. So far their have been no (new) coalition meetings, no minutes and no meetings. In no time the new coalition had reached the 2007 standards! I bring these fiascos because the same people will be running Jupitor, (a project with no plans.) At the board meeting a board member asked if the project could break ground by April. The developer said they would try. the developer should have met with Marini before making star-bright promises.

Deborah Wess  

Posted: December 16th, 2016 5:14 PM

"Resident Richard Holland said a number of factors have contributed to neighbors' belief that the project...." ___________??? What??? Mr. Inkelbarger, would you mind finishing your sentence before publishing? Perhaps run it by someone else to look over it first? Because as written,, I can only guess what those beliefs are.

Leonard Grossman  

Posted: December 16th, 2016 4:30 PM

If I put my slacks on a diet, I can't squeeze into them, no matter how much I bend. The traffic will have to go somewhere. All of these dieting streets when what we need to do is clear our arteries. Sorry if my response seems silly, but the proposal is sillier.

Natalie Stein  

Posted: December 16th, 2016 3:46 PM

A grocery store can have appeal for residents throughout the village and should not attract rats anymore than the restaurants and we do NOT need more restaurants. We need businesses that can bring in tax revenue. Look at the tax increase Anan is proposing, it is a huge amount in one year. Fees keep going up, the village is badly mismanaged and they need to just cut however much it hurts, we have to do that with our expenses.

Dave Slade from Oak Park  

Posted: December 16th, 2016 2:25 PM

"...the project, which would completely rebuild the streetscape between Oak Park and Wesley avenues, narrowing the road to two lanes and bending it to increase the developable area on the south side of the 700 block of Madison Street." For a grocery store? Seriously? Who runs this s(%#show?

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: December 15th, 2016 7:03 PM

@JBM: I would sure like to get a look at those 235 traffic crash (accident) reports that were filed on Madison Street. I spent thirty years on the OPPD force and can recall taking four accidents on Madison Street in 30 years, and no cases of traffic control for an accident on Madison Street. I don't know if the procedure still exists, but in the old record bureau, traffic crash (accidents) were filed in a separate pile because the reports were asked for so frequently. All you would have to do is thumb thru the file pile to determine 235 Madison Street crashes ( accidents). I would like to see if not the reports, then just the computer ticket copies with complaint numbers. Wonder if that center median has any bearing on the 235.

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: December 15th, 2016 6:04 PM

Richard Holland, Thank you for taking a stand with Anan-Abu-Taleb. Your action is important to all the residents of the village. Our residents are tired of outrageous taxation, overspending of budgets, the complete ignorance of the needs in the village, and the failure of village revenue return from the project he fostered. The Downtown Plan has no proof that any will be a commercial success. Simply put; Anan has damaged the village with his bad fiscal decision and is prepared to launch the vague Jupiter project that has no project development plan. The village is in trouble; and refuses to recognize how serious our financial risks are. We need an April election that gives resident and businesses a voice in the village.

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