15 Sep 2014
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South Marion to Get $5.4 Million Facelift

But cost of ambitious project delays Oak Park Avenue renovations.

South Marion to Get $5.4 Million Facelift

Oak Park officials will move forward with a multi-million dollar facelift on South Marion Street this year but will table similar efforts on North and South Oak Park Avenues until the fate of other downtown developments becomes more clear.

After nearly five hours of presentations, public comment and debate at Monday's special meeting, trustees voted 4-3 for a $5.4 million plan that will add touches similar to those on North Marion from North Boulevard south to Pleasant Street.

Funds will come from the Downtown TIF. A 101-year-old water main will also be replaced.

Voting for the project were Trustees Glenn Brewer, Ray Johnson and Colette Lueck and Village President David Pope. Those officials said the renovations would tie Marion Street together — and pay long-term dividends with more private investment.

“It will help Oak Park create an experience that is different from anywhere else,” Johnson said.

But Trustee John Hedges, who opposed it, questioned if these projects were as important as the other priorities spelled out in the  Downtown Master Plan. The master plan, formulated in 2005, established guidelines and strategies and laid out key projects to revitalize downtown.

Among those are Lake Street streetscape and a new garage at Lake and Forest.

Also voting no were Trustees Bob Tucker and Adam Salzman.

Salzman noted that closing the street in a still-uncertain economy could hurt businesses; Tucker said it was difficult to justify upscale expenses.

“In this difficult time I do not want to foot the bill for an investment that will take a long time to pay off,” he said.

But Mary Jo Schuler, the owner of the  and president of the South Marion Association, said the overhaul, which will include new lamps, brick streets, granite curbs, lighting, benches and bike racks, was heavily supported by her organization.

Construction is expected to start this month and be completed by Thanksgiving, said Loretta Daly, business services manager for Oak Park. The street will be closed later this spring. A parking and traffic plan for the area is in the works.

Trustees will wait until fall to decide whether improvements on Oak Park Avenue from Lake Street south to Pleasant Street will move forward as discussions continue on three outstanding downtown projects that might need Downtown TIF funds. There were also concerns about their Oak Park Avenue projects and their costs and whether they fit into the Downtown Master Plan.

They include:

  •  Lake and Forest. The village is waiting to hear the status of Sertus’ $85 million development with retail, a 140-room hotel and 85 condominiums. A new parking garage, to be built by the village, is part of that mix.
  • A mixed-use development at  South Boulevard and Harlem Avenue, to be put up by the Morningside Group, which has been in discussions for four years.
  •  Station Street, a mixed use development that has been planned for the Colt Building site and Westgate Avenue. The preferred developer for that project is Clark Street Development and that has been in discussion for several years. That also is considered a catalyst project.

The Oak Park Avenue projects, which would add some of the similar features as Marion along with a plaza, would cost $7.1 million, with almost all of that coming from the Downtown TIF.

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