A Riverside plan that respects and challenges

Opinion: Editorials

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By Editorial

Adopting a new comprehensive plan for the village's downtown area, as it did in mid-April, is a suitable close to Riverside's outgoing village board. While we have not always been enthusiastic about the currently configured board, we applaud the effort that brought forth this new plan.

The document was crafted, with considerable citizen and official input, by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). Our sense is that this is the first planning effort in memory that really grasps the goals and aspirations, the worries and the limits of development in the downtown.

Most everyone agrees that what is in place now is not adequate. Downtown Riverside doesn't work well enough for current residents. There aren't enough businesses and the mix of businesses is uninspiring. The downtown also doesn't work as an economic engine to draw in visitors to help fund the community.

The CMAP proposal finds that elusive balance between preservation and change, between respecting our history and, yes, exploiting it respectfully. This is a plan built on Riverside's history that does not fall victim to the straightjacket of history that some in town seem determined to fit the village with.

The plan includes bold ideas that are fully in tune with Riverside's traditions and strengths. An expanded role for the Riverside Historical Museum centers on the truth that our Olmsted design and rich history are dynamic assets to be enjoyed and shared, not musty artifacts to be protected under glass.

Bringing life to the river side is another acknowledgment of the undervalued asset we have in our natural setting. Drawing kayaks and canoes, bike riders and walkers to the downtown is another way to make Riverside a destination.

Wider sidewalks to encourage outdoor dining is a great solution, whether you are a 30-year resident or a person lucky enough to have just discovered this gem of a town. Better signage that tells visitors we welcome them into our tangled web and can direct them back out at the close of the day is also obvious.

There are other ideas both bolder and potentially more contentious. A community/recreation center on the site of the old public works garage is an ambitious and worthy goal in our eyes. Streamlining village government processes to make opening a business here simpler and faster is just the right thing to do and should not be seen as giving up the ability to shape the business community.

With the CMAP plan comes a two-year stretch during which this agency will provide its considerable support and expertise to efforts to implement plans. Combined with an economy finally coming off the map, this is an ideal time for Riverside to move boldly ahead.

Reader Comments

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former Riversider from LGP  

Posted: May 5th, 2013 9:44 AM

AYSO is American Youth Soccer Organization. Basically R'side said no to letting the AYSO use their fields (which AYSO would prepare) on Saturdays in the fall- you'd have lots of young families coming into town- think of them as potential customers for any business that R'side may have. Not sure what their reasoning was for denying them.

J. Muir  

Posted: May 5th, 2013 7:26 AM

I for one have never heard of that company(AYSO 300) but if they have locations in Brookfield and LaGrange, which are close by, why put one here. It must not have been much of a push. And the fact is certain businesses will never fit into this unique village.


Posted: May 5th, 2013 6:21 AM

I have to laugh at this editorial and the accompanying comments. As someone who encouraged the village to welcome AYSO 300 (LaGrange, Western Springs, Brookfield, etc) and was flatly rebuffed because of the "people" it would bring to town, I wonder what's actually changed.

a concerned taxpayer from Riverside  

Posted: May 4th, 2013 4:24 PM

A Miller Road entry into our downtown with attractively-designed signage there and at other key entries is needed. It doesn't have to be expensive or fussy. This is an important first step that should be implemented soon and without great fanfare. The Olmsted Society's plan for the Forest and 1st Ave gateway is too grand and expensive. Let's keep the Village's entry and way finding signage simple, elegant and reasonably priced. It could give our downtown businesses a big lift.

J. Muir  

Posted: May 4th, 2013 4:22 PM

This is an idea that the Met. Water Reclamation Dist. may be interested in funding, because any diverted water would end up being cleaner by the time it re-enters the river, and the condition of area waterways is their jurisdiction. Many towns and cities have wetlands parks, turning what many feel is a nuisance into an attraction. Of course this would require thinking "outside' the box, of R-sides comfort level.

A Leopold  

Posted: May 4th, 2013 11:08 AM

I had a similar thought when I jogged by there this morning. It is and will remain a floodplain; why not divert some part of the river through it and make it an ecologically interesting year round marsh, filled with native plants, birds and other animals? The area could become a destination for birders and other nature lovers - a reason for them to visit Riverside.

J. Muir  

Posted: May 4th, 2013 10:17 AM

Swan Pond obviously wasn't named that for being the dry part of town, so why not go in the direction of keeping water in the park, and build elevated wooden walkways thru-out, with all aquatic plantings native to this climate. The Cranes and Herons have lost the area above where the Hofmann dam was, they would thrive in a newly created marshland. Purple Martins and and other insect eaters could be provided nesting spots, etc. We're wasting money trying to keep the water out, reverse course!

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