And here you thought only Oak Park could spend five years negotiating a property sale only to see everyone leave the table muttering. Now the virus has spread to Forest Park, where a half-decade of discussions about luring Oak Park’s YMCA ended last week with everyone afraid to tote up the legal bills.
How you spend five years talking about a deal both sides badly wanted to make, only to come up empty, is beyond baffling. How you keep talking about minutia while watching the sands of prosperity drip out of the hourglass is baffling. But, by golly, our village council was hand-in-hand with the YMCA on this meandering journey.
They talked themselves straight into a depression – both psychological and fiscal. Public officials here were said to be sick with disappointment over how this all imploded. No doubt. Five years of work, five years of staking your political fortunes to a grand vision only to see it disappear could certainly manifest itself with symptoms physical.
There are certain and several people at Oak Park’s village hall who make all sorts of queer faces and look like their lunch didn’t much agree with them when you talk about Forest Park. They are sick to death of being compared unfavorably with business-friendly Forest Park, where everybody knows your name and the mayor claps you on the back and says, “Howdy.”
The parade of Oak Park businesses that now call Forest Park home was once a torrent but is now a trickle as the advantages Forest Park once offered – cheap rent, an inert regulatory system, plentiful parking and marketing mojo – have dissipated.
Here though, here now, we have a notable way in which Forest Park has, egads, become scarily like Oak Park. Oak Park has the lake where the Colt building once sagged on Lake Street. Forest Park has “The Grove,” the interim name for a grassy knoll bought eight years ago for $3.6 million with a vague notion of putting it to a positive civic use that didn’t involve ubiquitous townhouses. Oak Park has got “The Link,” the failed Alex Troyanovsky project at Oak Park Avenue and South Boulevard. We’ve got “The Roos,” the failed Alex Troyanovsky project at Harrison and Circle.
There are differences, too. In Oak Park, spectacular flameouts after months, years of heated public meetings are practically the norm. They’ve seen elections rise and fall over philosophical debates regarding public comment and historic preservation. No one is surprised when things go ka-blooey in Oak Park.
Now, in Forest Park, there is a mixed tradition of public involvement. Once in a while, there is a great sputtering up. Then it quiets and the discussion moves back under wraps where years then pass with only an occasional assurance that the YMCA deal is just about done.
And now the YMCA deal is absolutely done. Scorched.