There’s some news in today’s paper that, quite honestly, has me a bit sad. It’s something we thought might happen, but now it seems likely before the end of the year.
As you might have read, Doyle’s Restaurant, located on 34th Street, has apparently entered into an option period with a local developer who has pitched an idea to the Oak Forest community about converting the land into a multi-level apartment complex.
For those new to the area, and maybe for folks who live south of 610 who don’t travel north for warm meals, Doyle’s is a family restaurant that boasts good pizzas, great sandwiches, better salads and friendly service. I don’t personally know the Doyle family, but I enjoy their food and I’ve always appreciated family-owned restaurants that figure out how to stay open.
The reason for the sadness isn’t that we’re losing a restaurant – Lord knows another one will pop up by the time I finish writing. Instead, the sentimental side of me sees that Doyle’s has been in business for 65 years, and that likely will end after a really good run.
In much of Doyle’s marketing material, they proudly boast that they opened in 1954. You know what else opened in 1954? That’s right. The Leader.
Now, I don’t have the support staff in place to research how many businesses in our community have been around for 65 years, but if you eliminate all the big-box businesses and just look at the ones owned locally, I’m going to guess you could count them on a couple of hands, if the second hand is even needed.
For most of its lifetime, The Leader operated in an office less than a half mile from Doyle’s, and together, those two businesses have been part of the Heights, Oak Forest and Garden Oaks landscape. Both businesses have had their ups and downs, but both have been resilient through the downs and have found a way to survive.
My guess is Peter Doyle could find a way to keep his business open, or he could find someone willing to buy the restaurant from him. But I also imagine the value of his land for a developer like Avenue CDC is so much greater than what he could get for a few multipliers of his restaurant’s profits.
I don’t begrudge Doyle’s if they ultimately decide to sell, and I don’t think another person in this community should either. As a local owner of a business that started the same year as Mr. Doyle’s, I’m glad both of our businesses have made it this long.
If you’re wondering if a similar fate awaits The Leader, I don’t think so. Through some changes in our company, we’ve been able to reinvigorate this community newspaper, and we’re gearing up for a new challenger who will enter the market in the next couple of months. We’re excited about the opportunity to become a better publication and, thus, a better business in this community.
More important, The Leader doesn’t own any super valuable land on 34th Street, so nobody’s calling anyway!
As the conversation about Doyle’s shifts from sentimental memories to a development that could bring mixed income households to that plot of land, I’d like to offer some caution to the residents who will be most affected by a new apartment complex in the area.
Earlier this week, some residents in Oak Forest heard about the development by a man named Aaron Campbell, who happens to be an Oak Forest resident. Though I wasn’t at the meeting, I’ve been told by multiple people that much of the conversation centered around building government-funded housing in an area that has boomed economically. Often, we hear about apartments like this and homeowners cringe.
I really hope the conversation about Avenue CDC’s plans don’t center around income levels. I hope the words “Section 8 Housing” don’t become fodder for blanket statements. I don’t know Campbell, I have no connection to them, and I didn’t even attend the meeting where Campbell spoke. But during my career in journalism, I’ve dealt with a number of hot-button topics like government-funded housing.
There are a few things we need to take into account as this discussion begins: First, Section 8 housing doesn’t ever mean “Criminal Housing.” Just because folks are on a different economic level than others doesn’t make them unworthy of being our neighbors. I spent the first decade of my life with very little – others of you have similar stories.
Instead, Section 8 housing can be filled with law enforcement officers or teachers or firefighters whose wages don’t come close to middle class. Sometimes, the best among us are the ones who need a cheaper place to live.
Instead, as our conversation about this complex becomes louder over the next few months, let’s focus on the issues that will really matter. Can our schools handle 100-150 more students? We’re hearing reports that they can’t, and we need a solution to questions about education and available seats.
My bigger question will come as we look at the infrastructure of that area of 34th Street. In the coming weeks, The Leader will examine the development along 34th, especially as a huge retail development shows signs of life across the street from this proposed complex.
Consider this: Doyle’s probably had a couple of sinks, a couple of dishwashers, and two bathrooms located outside the building. If the reports of 72 apartments is true, that means we’ll now add 72 kitchen sinks, at least 72 bath tubs, probably 30 more showers, at least 72 more bathroom sinks and at least 72 more toilets. That’s almost 320 more plumbing lines draining to sewage lines that once had, what, six lines? And when retail stores open across the street, what will that do to drainage along 34th Street.
As this project moves along, I think we should keep our attention on the real issues, not the ones that don’t matter.