Don't forget Roosevelt

Opinion: Editorials

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We've written often in recent years about the necessity, and now the progress being made on, remaking North Avenue. The long stretch from Austin Boulevard to Harlem, fronting both Oak Park and Chicago has found new purpose as obsolete and often empty commercial spaces have given way to residential projects. Most recently the city of Chicago approved the mixed-use overhaul of the empty Sears behemoth at Harlem and North. Now comes a residential proposal for the block-long old St. Paul Federal headquarters on the Chicago side. 

This is all good. More tax revenue. More customers. More vitality.

Meanwhile on Oak Park's southern border with Berwyn and Cicero there are also signs of life along what, especially on Oak Park's side of the street, has become a derelict stretch. 

The Plan Commission, referenced in the editorial above, also OK'd a new use for an old building on Roosevelt last week. We remember the handsome structure at Highland and Roosevelt as a flower shop, then medical offices, then a long empty gap on the street. Soon it will become an expansion of the adjacent Oak Park Friends School. What a great use.

This will be the second long-vacant Roosevelt site to be turned into private school use this year. Alcuin Montessori is about finished with its handsome new building further west on the street. Are there concerns about the property tax status of these uses? Modestly so. But a street filled with viable, positive life will be much more attractive to additional for-profit entities. 

Witness the current construction of the new corporate headquarters of Turano Bread on the Oak Park side of Roosevelt. This is an investment for generations by a family-owned company that could have moved anywhere.

Finally, we know that Oak Park's mayor is rightfully proud of having recently disinvested the last parcels of village-owned commercial property after some haphazard decades of assembling property. That said, we'd urge this board and its Oak Park Economic Development Corporation to actively consider strategic acquisitions on Roosevelt Road. There is the recently abandoned US Bank facility stretching a block at Austin and Roosevelt. There are multiple hideous properties just west. Rumors of other notable property becoming available and needing new uses are in the wind. 

Oak Park ought to be driving this development not just knocking down proposals for car washes and convenience stores. Roosevelt Road is Oak Park, too.  

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Magda Szymczyk from Oak park   

Posted: August 19th, 2019 7:31 PM

Thank you for being a voice for Roosevelt road businesses. I opened my little shop 18 months ago and I'm struggling to stay afloat. The village required so much hoop jumping and associated cost for my little business to even be considered. I had to file for a zoning amendment; a cost I really couldn't afford at start up. We are the last area to get plowed in winter, our sewers are clogged creating standing water in the streets. The traffic races by at incredible speeds unchecked and I won't even go into the gang funeral mayhem which is a regular spectacle. The Berwyn side is filled with music venues and cafes?" oak park side just a lot of junk and ill kept store windows. Maybe some day, someone will care enough to do some investments. I hope I can last long enough to see it happen; but it's doubtful.

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