Will Jupiter Realty fool us twice?

Opinion: Columns

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By Chris Donovan

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In the April 25 Wednesday Journal, in an article and an accompanying editorial, the Madison Street Bend was reported to be dead. As an exciting alternative, the Journal informed the public of the new proposal from Jupiter Realty touted by the village president: relocating the proposed grocery store from the site of the former Foley Rice building on the south side of Madison to the village-owned lot on the northeast corner of Madison Street and Oak Park Avenue. The size of the "Christmas tree lot" would be augmented by the land currently occupied by the shuttered CarX building, which the village purchased last year. In addition, the article reported support for the project by Trustee Bob Tucker, who said, "This is about making no small plans."

During this past Monday's village board meeting, a unanimous vote agreed to prepare a new Request for Proposals (RPF) for the selection of a new preferred developer for the expanded site. Trustee Dan Moroney said Jupiter Realty is going to have to "up its game" to again be selected as the preferred developer. The preparation of the RFP and review of responses received is again being done by the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation (OPEDC).

Looking back at the process for the original RFP for the site in 2016, it should be remembered that the specifics for all proposals were based completely on a plan from an unidentified developer that was unveiled as the purpose for including a bend in Madison as part of the design of the Madison Street Road Diet. Including the bend in the design and plans for the Road Diet increased the budget for the contract with Christopher B. Burke Engineering by $360,000. Near the time that the 2016 RFP was released, it became news that Jupiter Realty was the developer proposing the plans for the bend and north side village-owned lots and Foley Rice property and building.

(By the way, how much of that $360,000 was spent on planning the failed bend? And what is the status of the Road Diet as the Madison Street TIF District expires?)

If the new RFP process follows the pattern established in 2016, the specifics will include all the features of the Jupiter plans outlined by the village president in the April 25 Journal article. It cannot be denied that Jupiter failed in its delivery of all the attributes of its 2016 proposal. The most glaring example of that failure was the village having to purchase the CarX property for $1.3 million, not including the cost of environmental clearance. 

Wednesday Journal and the village board recently repeated that Jupiter had control of the Foley Rice property. There is no evidence that is true.

It comes down to this: What makes the village board and the OPEDC believe that Jupiter has the capacity to "up its game" this time? Perhaps they should follow the old adage, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

Chris Donovan is a resident of Oak Park.

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