Last week we reported that, despite the poor economy, key properties on Madison Street have lost little value. What’s more, the local business community says that, despite challenges, the street is doing pretty well.
This is good news for Madison Street which is, no doubt, the village’s crown jewel. It must be noted, though, that there are still some longstanding vacancies on the street including the old Circle Theatre and the Trage Bros. spot.
The street’s quirky and locally owned boutiques and shops, as well as its independently run restaurants and businesses, attract people from near and far.
Like Joe Cirrintano, a local chef, recently said, “It’s fantastic what they did with Madison Street … It’s a changed town.”
Much went into reshaping the street over the past 15 years. Mayor Anthony Calderone, other forward-thinking officials and the local business community helped make it what it is. The progressives of that era met resistance from Calderone’s predecessor, the late Lorraine Popelka, and others who wanted to leave well enough alone on that drab street.
Ironically, a sort of role reversal has taken shape when it comes to the mayor’s take on Roosevelt Road. Calderone, regarded by many as a “pro-business” guy, has gone out of his way to chide elected officials who attempt to discuss economic development there. He’s also said, publically, that there’s really “not much” that can be done. That doesn’t sound like the 1990s Tony Calderone.
The two streets are starkly different. Madison Street is pedestrian friendly, and scaled as an old-fashioned downtown with a streetwall of commercial buildings largely uninterrupted from Harlem to Desplaines avenues. Roosevelt Road contains a shopping plaza, other commercial buildings, some decrepit housing, and a U.S. Naval Reserve base.
Obviously this is not the next Madison Street, although with its big box stores and, we hope, an additional car dealer, it is the sales-tax champion. Given this dreary economy we don’t expect any drastic changes overnight. We agree with Calderone’s assessment that business owners and residents can’t be pushed out to accommodate redevelopment. So rather than look for some miracle cure-all for a street that presently has few things going for it, we’re asking for an open discussion of options and then a long-term and realistic plan.
A couple of elected officials – Commissioners Rory Hoskins and Chris Harris – have suggested this. Calderone has smacked them down, though. Their ideas may be the right ones or not. But they ought clearly be the starting point for a good discussion.
The old Tony Calderone, wherever he’s gone, would have embraced the conversation. Now he’s obsessed with controlling the conversation.
“I suppose anything is possible or achievable. The dichotomy truly is a lot of attention is paid to Madison Street – that is our downtown,” Calderone said. “I’m not familiar with any town having multiple downtowns. It seems awkward to me.”
“I will always stand to be corrected,” he added.
No one is suggesting that Madison Street and Roosevelt Road are equivalent. Just two opportunities to be explored.