Economic development in Riverside is an evergreen topic, but in the past decade so little has been done to actually address it that the pine needles are piled up all over the floor.
It's pretty clear that downtown Riverside is never going to resemble downtown LaGrange or downtown Oak Park. We're not sure anyone really wants it to. But it could be more than it is right now, and bringing more life to the central business district can only serve to help the businesses that already exist there.
About a year ago, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) delivered its final comprehensive plan for Riverside's downtown. It was a realistic picture of the area and offered workable goals. All it needed was a commitment from village government to follow through and not — like so many plans before it — bury the report in a filing cabinet.
Village President Bell Sells, elected a month after the report was unveiled, decided he was going to make the CMAP plan the blueprint for his new administration and enlisted the previously unmoored Economic Development Commission to look at the CMAP report goals and suggest ways to implement them.
One of the results of that mandate was the "I Got It in Riverside" campaign, developed by then-EDC commissioner Don Pogany, which became not only a source of conversation about business in Riverside, but tangibly demonstrated what the village's business community already had to offer residents.
On Monday, EDC members, village board officials and business owners will meet for an informal forum with the executive director of the Berwyn Development Corporation. While the two communities differ greatly in terms of population, size, challenges and resources, the point is to keep stakeholders thinking of new ways to capitalize on what makes Riverside special.
Too often economic development in Riverside was regarded with fear, as something that would harm Riverside's special characteristic. The goal is the opposite: to enhance Riverside as a special place and to share it with others.
Here's hoping the momentum continues.
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