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Lake Street makeover could take over a year

$15 million project will run from Harlem to Austin

September 25th, 2018 2:10 PM

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.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com