As I was walking down the steps from the post office a few days before Christmas, I looked across Desplaines Avenue and saw the vacant Mobil gas station.
It’s too bad that parcel of land isn’t big enough for a parking garage. Village Administrator Mike Sturino has said it was configured in such a way that it would be an engineering nightmare to try build a parking ramp there. Additionally, that lot has been hailed as a gateway property for more economic development.
It’s too bad, because nobody would be forced to leave their home. It’s too bad, because it continues to sit there just waiting to be redeveloped.
As I walked through the drizzle to my car I looked back at the McDonald’s that sits near this vacant lot and wondered why everyone is assuming that it has to be a residence that gets razed for parking. Why not a business? Why not McDonald’s?
I turned that one over in my mind, and didn’t feel any better about taking away a person’s business than I do their home. And then Tasty Dog came to mind. Remember Tasty Dog? It used to be on the south side of Lake Street, but when developers wanted the property, a deal was made to put up a brand new building across the street for the fast food place so the space where it was could be developed.
And then the thought came to me. Why not redevelop the east side of Desplaines from Madison Street all the way to the District 91 administration building? Heck, why not tear down the administration building, too?
The developers could put up a three-story structure with street level store fronts, one of them being a new McDonald’s. District 91 could have part of the new structure, too.
I saw something like that when my wife and I were in Juneau, Alaska. Land is at a premium there because the mountains rise right out of the ocean. What the city of Juneau did was put its public library on the very top level of a three-story parking ramp. You got to the book you wanted by taking an elevator, there was plenty of parking and if you looked up from your reading, the view out the window was spectacular.
Wouldn’t that be a kick? A McDonald’s with a third floor view of Forest Park. Talk about being a destination-the only penthouse McDonald’s in the world. What’s more, a three-story structure would be much more compatible with the streetscape on Madison. If we wanted to, we could even add condos.
What you would have is a project that would be paid for in part by the developer. Also, a good portion of the development would be on unoccupied new land. It would be located just a block away from the stretch of Madison Street that has the highest net demand for additional parking (block 12 on the RHA&A map). It wouldn’t provide that much relief for the businesses near the corner of Circle and Madison unless the merchants came up with some voluntary plan to have employees park in the new ramp or the village passed an ordinance to that effect. That would free up needed parking on the street and in the lots.
I also wonder if Marbuzet would still be Marbuzet and not the Madison Street Grill if more parking had been available right across the street.
I realize I’m going off half-cocked here. I haven’t talked to any village officials about the feasibility of my idea-fantasy might be a better word. But, then again, maybe I shouldn’t feel too much embarrassment. At least it’s an attempt to think creatively about a knotty problem. It appears we’ve only considered residential buildings as candidates for demolition.