Let's build Pete's

Opinion: Editorials

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We love the Hill Motor Sales building on Madison Street.

It is more than handsome. It is historic at 95 years and as a final representation of Oak Park's legacy as the auto sales destination of the west suburbs for several decades. 

Several decades that ended in the 1970s.

The building has been a relic now for about as long as it was a great place to display a Packard or, toward the end, a Cadillac.

Now it is time to bring out the wrecking ball and build a Pete's Fresh Market. 

The building is fully obsolete and pretty much a total wreck. Every organization and the much-touted engines of capitalism have looked at how to save this building, to give it new purpose. They have all come up empty.

The building has no purpose.

What we can only assume was a semi-serious discussion of at least preserving the south and east façade as part of the new grocery store ran into practical design issues — got to have a loading dock — and a hefty price tag. Pete's top exec put the cost at $2.5 million for a facadectomy. The grotesques, the great architectural details of the old dealership, will be preserved and somehow added to the exterior of Pete's. That is something.

Oak Park's second Pete's is a great project. The old car dealership is just a piece of a much larger parcel that has been waiting for new development for far too long. Turning the village-owned property at Oak Park Avenue and Madison into something useful, a commercial enterprise paying property taxes, sales taxes, liquor taxes, while providing good jobs, is overdue.

The new Pete's and the senior housing development replacing another piece of the long-gone Foley Rice Cadillac, this one on the south side of Madison, are key components of what has been a remarkable remaking of the dormant Madison corridor over the past eight years. 

This is really one of Oak Park's success stories.

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Heidi Ruehle  

Posted: December 4th, 2020 12:15 PM

This needs to stop being discussed as an either/or case and acknowledge that adaptive reuse of part of the building was not only possible but beneficial for the long term value for our community. Same for many other sites throughout the village. Both economic development AND historic architectural preservation can be accomplished within one project. Why do these facts keep getting ignored or brushed aside by village and community leadership? It's time to change this trajectory and start a new process of working together from the onset rather than finding the easiest solution granting short-term benefits while ignoring long-term impact. We can all do better!

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