Build a Park, Not a Tower
An Opinion Piece by Adrian Fisher
The Oak Park Comprehensive Plan recommends finding more open space. The Park District of Oak Park Master Plan states that opportunities should be sought to increase park space. The Oak Park-River Forest Sustainability Plan includes the goal of increasing green space and green infrastructure in the villages.
Yet, Oak Park is in danger of destroying one of our most precious open-spaces and historic treasures: Austin Gardens. The 21-story Vantage Oak Park already casts long morning shadows where there were none before. Now a developer interested in the property at 1000 Lake wants a zoning variance to build another tall building. This might be good for Albion. However, for Oak Park residents, the long-term results would be diminished quality of life and a ruined park. Trees, some over 100 years old, would be in danger of dying. The village as a whole would lose.
There’s a better idea. The Village, possibly in partnership with the Park District and other entities, should purchase the land and build a park. This would have several advantages beyond the admirable ones of beauty and delight. A park would enhance the Lake Street streetscape, provide a gateway to Austin Gardens and the Frank Lloyd Wright district beyond, and possibly increase surrounding property values. A multifunctional park would add to the district’s livability, improve quality of life, and provide a welcoming atmosphere for locals and the many visitors arriving each year.
What might this urban oasis be like? Benches, tables and chairs would attract people to meet, eat lunch, and relax. Sustainability and green infrastructure features could include a sunshelter–roofed with solar panels–over part of the area, a rain garden featuring flowering native plants, and well-placed native trees. The park would provide welcome habitat for humans, birds and pollinators alike, while feeding clean power into the grid and helping manage stormwater.