Editor’s note: John Rice has the week off. Please enjoy this edited column from April 14, 2004.
Progress almost always involves pain. Remember what a pain it was to have Madison Street torn up for two years? Looking at the results, though, we can say it was worth all the maddening inconvenience. I think the same can be true for the proposed development of the Ed Roos property. It will be painful for some to see a century-old building come down. And many nearby neighbors are dead-set against the increased density. But after attending an hour of the recent Plan Commission meeting, I came away thinking the condo development would be good for Forest Park.
First, to address the historic value of the building, I would say that just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s worth keeping. The old factory does have an attractive façade along Harrison and an imposing tower. Otherwise, it looks like a relic from the Industrial Revolution that has outlived its purpose. Though the owner claims he is trying to keep it up, it looks derelict. There’s no doubt that the building has a proud history of producing fine furniture, but its signature cedar chests haven’t been made there for a long time.
The historic preservationists prefer that the building be converted to lofts. The owner does not believe this would be structurally feasible. Also, newly constructed condos sell better than conversions. Forest Park has lost many fine buildings that should have been preserved. I just don’t think the Roos fits that category.
Secondly, we have to look at impact on the neighborhood. When I first heard about the project, it sounded crazy to put condominiums at this already crowded intersection. Of course, I was imagining condo traffic coming from that funky service drive on the west side of Circle. Having the condo owners use Hannah sounded a little more palatable.
The deal-breaker, if you ask me, is whether we can get the CTA to upgrade the Circle Avenue Blue Line station. The model I was looking at was the Lombard station in Oak Park. It’s a secondary entrance that is open to fare card users 24 hours a day. We need the same type of station at the top of the Circle bridge. If we did, there would be little argument about whether the condo residents would use public transit.
Progress is painful, but I believe permitting this development to be built is preferable to trying to preserve a building that is long past its prime.