Another government building in an already congested neighborhood with parking problems would be unacceptable, residents living near Village Hall told officials looking to share a building there.
During a nearly two-hour meeting at William Beye School on Nov. 10, residents peppered officials from the Park District of Oak Parkp and Elementary School District 97 about their plan for construcing a shared administrative facility behind Village Hall at 123 Madison St.
Both entities have administrative offices on Madison Street, a commerce corridor that is in need of a boost.
The project has been the topic of conversation on and off for some time, and with the park district and school district looking at spending a total of $3 million to renovate their own buildings, the idea of building one facility made sense. Officials from both entities said it would save costs and increase opportunities to collaborate more. They added that it would be in line with the Madison Street Plan and contribute to the growth of local business by putting two government buildings back on the tax rolls.
But residents along the 500 and 600 blocks of South Lombard Avenue weren't buying it. The notion that traffic flow would improve was ridiculous, a couple of them said. With all of the little children on the street, traffic could become more dangerous, they implied. The term race track came up more than once.
"Traffic is unbelieveable," said long-time resident Fran Sampson. "Cars race up and down here. They think Lombard is a highway."
They also said additional parking on the street would not work; underground parking would be fine.
Joan Filbin noted that the plan to pay for part of this by selling both buildings is "wishful thinking."
"This is the worst market in real estate, with no real end in the near future," said Filbin, who has been in real estate since the mid-70s.
The project is nowhere ready to even be built. The village board will decide in all likelihood in early December whether to give the park district and the school district the green light to look further into the matter.
A detailed study of the project by village staff found the idea had some advantages: having three units of government in one spot would save money, it would make it more convenient for residents and it would present an opportunity to improve traffic flow.
A financial study on the project is also being prepared, officials said.
Proposed sources include money already in the park and school district budgets for maintenance, money from the Madison Street Tax Incremenet Financing District and the sale of both administrative buildings.
"It's not a done deal, we're only looking to see if it's feasible," said District 97 school board president Peter Barber. "If the money's not there it will not happen."
But the proposed facility needs to make sense for the Village, District 97 and the park district, and it also must make economic sense for the Oak Park taxpayer, said Trustee Bob Tucker, who attended to learn what was on residents' minds.
"At the same time, we must be sensitive to the community surrounding Village Hall," Tucker said. "Those neighbors should not be asked to bare an unreasonable negative impact from any proposed project. I have a lot of questions that need to be answered before I will be persuaded that all of us should move forward."