The Lakota Group
Marion Street Streetscape Design; Oak Park, Illinois

Client: Village of Oak Park
Engineer: Strand Associates, Inc.
Contractor: George Solitt Construction Company
Consultant: Metro Transportation Group
Category: Design -Urban

Oak Park's transformation from rural village to urban suburb can be traced over time on Marion Street. Since the early 1870s, the corner of Marion Street and North Boulevard was the location of the commuter railroad station, connecting Oak Park to Chicago's Loop. Over decades, the high visibility offered by this transportation hub made it a prime location for commercial growth between the station and the growing business district on nearby Lake Street. In an effort to compete with the indoor shopping centers of the 1970s, Lake and Marion Streets were converted to a pedestrian shopping mall. While vehicular access was later reintroduced to Lake Street, Marion Street remained a pedestrian mall. Over the years the ‘Marion Mall,' and its ability to attract and retain tenants, deteriorated while other blocks in the downtown thrived.

To combat the decline, the Village identified the enhancement of Marion Street as a catalytic project in its 2005 Downtown Master Plan update. The Plan called for ‘Marion Mall' to be reopened to vehicular traffic, with a European design that would enable it to be closed for street festivals and sidewalk sales events, and include traffic-calming elements to ensure low traffic speeds and pedestrian safety.

In November 2007, the Village of Oak Park unveiled its reconstructed and reopened Marion Street, the culmination of a two-year planning and design process, diligently led by the landscape architect. A nod to the past and future, the streetscape improvements respect the heritage of the area's role in the history of the community, and set a roadmap for the future look, character, and viability of this central business district. The high-quality design and pedestrian amenities have renewed Marion Street and stimulated new investment and interest in the Village's downtown, which in turn has enhanced the quality of life in Oak Park.