Oak Park Comes Together to Design Nine Mile, Thru. June 3

ScottWrightadTOPOak Park Comes Together to 711 ad pizzaDesign Nine Mile – Workshops Thru. June 3

(Cheryl Weiss, June 2, 2015)

Oak Park residents, business owners, city staff members, and city officials came together last night to begin a three-day workshop to brainstorm and design a perfect place for everyone to live, work, play, and shop along Nine Mile Road.

“Build it and they will come” was a theme of the evening as approximately 30 people joined to envision a revitalized, vibrant, sustainable Nine Mile Road area of Oak Park. What might this include? Each of the four tables in the room brainstormed an element of “green”, such as solar Sahara ad with winepowered lights along the walkways, rain gardens, more trees and flowers, and bike paths in the street to encourage safe biking. They want greenery in the median and on the sides of the road. Art was also a top choice among participants, as they envisioned local artists creating sculptures that would invite pedestrians to take a look, visit, and engage in the creative display.

Imagine it … Nine Mile in Oak Park with pocket parks, trees, flowers, and gardens lining the street with water fountains for people and their pets, and sidewalks wide enough for two strollers to pass each other with room to spare for pedestrians. Imagine the busy shops and restaurants, benches along the side with decorative light poles that are distinctively “Oak Park style”. See the dedicated bike paths along the street for bikers to ride safely, and bike rentals for those without bikes and storage areas for bikes, sending the message that bicycle riders are seed021_helaine-zackwelcome in Oak Park. Imagine improved facades for old and new businesses, sidewalk dining along Nine Mile, bus shelters with heaters running in the winter, and providing cool shelter in the summer. Along the way you see interactive art, perhaps an area of sidewalk that creates music as you step on it, or a sculpture that has become a traditional perfect photo opportunity for all who visit the area. Can you visualize the paths to walk your dogs, ending in a small enclosed dog park? The parking lots along Nine Mile are redesigned to be more effective and safer. The parking spaces which are not needed are recreated into some of these beautiful visions. Nine Mile and Coolidge becomes a community gathering place, with street performers and activities, a vibrant, exciting downtown area that hosts community celebrations.

This, and so much more, is what was shared during the first visioning session last night.

The evening began with a warm welcome by Mayor Marian McClellan, whose excitement about royal_servicesthis project set the tone for the workshop. City Manager Erik Tungate shared some of the steps that have led to this event, such as the 2012 plan to redevelop the city, and the recent approval by Oak Park voters to allow Class C liquor licenses in restaurants. According to Tungate, “It is extremely important that we play a part in the region…something unique, interesting, and ideal about us. Communities that are successful build on their infrastructure and create a better quality of life.” That is the goal for the three day workshop; to build on what already exists in Oak Park and create a better place for everyone to enjoy. “Our doors are always open for your fresh and exciting ideas,” Tungate invited.

The dream is for Oak Park to become a walkable, vibrant area with streets filled with people, not just cars. A place of connections, a place to celebrate the uniqueness that is Oak Park and to build an exciting future from the success of the past. In order to accomplish this, there will need to be a more democratic allocation of street space. The term “road diet” has been used, but participants were asked to brainstorm new terminology for that, such as “road slendering”, seed_Mayor_Marian_McClellan“efficient streets”, “road sharing”, “road rehab”, or “complete streets”.

This workshop has been made possible by the grants and support by Congress for the New Urbanism as part of their partnership in Livability Solutions, and the Project for Public Spaces from the U.S. EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities under the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program.

The visioning continues with an Open House on Tuesday, June 2, 2015 from 1:00 – 5:00pm at the Oak Park Community Center, 14300 Oak Park Blvd. The community is encouraged to stop by, take a look at what has been suggested, and add your ideas, dreams, and visions for Oak Park’s Nine Mile area. A final presentation of everyone’s input will be given on Wednesday, June 3, 2015 at 2:00 pm at City Hall Council Chambers, 14000 Oak Park Blvd. This presentation will be videotaped and aired on cable as well as online if you are unable to be there in person.

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