Lake Street makeover could take over a year

$15 million project will run from Harlem to Austin

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The village of Oak Park has been planning a multimillion-dollar overhaul of Lake Street for years, but the project, which will redo sidewalks, lighting, street resurfacing, and water and sewer infrastructure, is set to begin in the spring of next year.

The exact timeline for the project has yet to be determined but is expected to be released sometime within the next few weeks, according to Oak Park Village Engineer Bill McKenna.

A presentation by village staff to business owners around Lake Street did note that the section of Lake Street from Harlem Avenue to North Marion Street will be closed from April through June of 2019, and the Marion Street intersection with Lake will be closed in early July.

McKenna said in a telephone interview that the village aims to have the work completed in 2019, but the work on the east end of the project could dip into 2020.

"We are still preparing final plans," he said. "The intent is to have a January bidding of the project by the state for construction to start in spring of 2019."

He noted that the streetscaping portion of the project — this includes replacing street furniture, lighting and other aesthetic features, in addition to roadway and infrastructure improvements — runs from Harlem to North Euclid Avenue, while the Euclid to Austin portion of the project is simply a street resurfacing project.

The village has received $3 million in federal funds for the streetscaping project, which means the state will handle the bidding process for the streetscaping, while the village will handle the bid for the resurfacing, said McKenna, adding that the village met with businesses to share the best information so they could start planning their 2019 sales season.

Business owners are worried about the street closures and general traffic and parking headaches that come along with such streetscaping projects.

Jim August, owner of The Irish Shop, 100 N. Oak Park Ave., and president of the Hemingway Business District, said he and others are working with various business groups in the downtown area to develop a marketing plan that will ease the pain of the long construction project.

The village and other government entities, he said, are spending $15 million on the project, and some of that should go toward helping businesses survive the financial impact they will suffer from residents avoiding downtown.

August said he is excited by the prospect of some of the design elements seen in downtown, such as brick crosswalks and some bluestone sidewalks, spreading east to the Hemingway Business District, which runs from Lake to Pleasant streets along Oak Park Avenue.

"I think when it's done it will really solidify the downtown districts," he said.

August said there is some consternation in the Hemingway District about the possible four-month closure of Lake Street between Oak Park Avenue and Euclid. 

"That would be disastrous for our businesses," he said. 

McKenna said he believes it is unlikely that the street will be closed that long and the four-month timeframe is a conservative estimate.

"We've got a lot of concerns about the four-month duration," he said, adding that the village needs more time to run the numbers.

The project is expected to cost a total of $15 million, a number that was reduced from about $20 million by the Oak Park Board of Trustees. In an effort to cut the big price tag of the project, the village removed a section of Marion Street from Lake to Ontario Street. 

Bluestone planned for the sidewalks and other aesthetic aspects of the project also were modified or eliminated last year.

"The current scope is showing regular concrete sidewalks from Harlem to (the west side of Target)," McKenna said. "In the mid-section from Forest to Oak Park Avenue we're not doing decorative pavement materials."

He said that mid-section will entail "normal concrete sidewalks and a normal asphalt street."

"We did a lot of pencil sharpening to get down to that ($15 million) goal," McKenna said.


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Reader Comments

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Laura Kitsos from Oak Park  

Posted: September 28th, 2018 9:57 AM

As a business and home owner, I believe there are many other needs for our village other than "solidifying" the DTOP with the Hemingway district. This project will surely destroy some businesses. We don't need bluestone sidewalks to make it a better shopping experience. We do, however, need a better marketing plan overall for all Oak Park businesses.

Mary Pikul  

Posted: September 25th, 2018 10:15 PM

I wish the Village would make it a priority to replace all the service line pipes connecting our homes to the municipal water main. Many of these are lead. I'm not against the street scaping, but to me, it's secondary to getting rid of the lead service lines in OP.

Kitty Conklin  

Posted: September 25th, 2018 5:13 PM

No, Jeff, this project is NOT coming out of TIF funds. It is coming out of "regular old property taxes" that you and I and all other Oak Park residents pay. This project was approved last February, after a few trustees protested the original $18 million cost. Our Board was able to save a few dollars and got it down to $15 million although Trustee Boutet wanted the cost to be nearly 1/2 of that. None of this will add to the values of our homes, but it will continue to encourage turnover of homes.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: September 25th, 2018 4:35 PM

I noticed how you mention the $3 million dollar federal money at the beginning of the article, but mention the actual $15 million price tag at the end. And the $12 million difference is coming out of the TIF, correct? After all, very little of this will actually add to the property value of residential property. It will make for a prettier traffic jam in the winter, but won't subtract one second from the time it takes to get your Malnatti's pizza delivered. And where are people going to park to go to Jimmy Johns and Great Clips? On South Boulevard? At least a couple of businesses will be sunk by this, I predict.

Tom Coffman  

Posted: September 25th, 2018 4:25 PM

Interesting how the water and sewer mains need to be replaced in the same location they are building tall buildings. Any connection? Are the new property taxes covering this, or are we as the old folks of Oak Park paying for it? What are the numbers.

Raymond Aikens from Oak Park  

Posted: September 25th, 2018 4:13 PM

This is quite an ambitious project. Clearly the goal is development of commercial corridor that will draw greater spending, generate a more diverse revenue stream for the Village, and (hopefully) lower residential tax burdens. I get a little uncomfortable because I'm afraid something gets loss. I've always felt the population of Oak Park, was just about ideal. I guess, for any entity, the prime directive is "growth". If I don't like it I can leave. But if I stay put I might face some decent capital gains in a property sale. We live in interesting times.

Jennifer Malloy Quinlan  

Posted: September 25th, 2018 3:50 PM


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