Riverside’s western gateway could be in line for a landscape overhaul, courtesy of a quasi-governmental committee, which is holding a design competition for the intersection of First Avenue and Forest Avenue/Ridgewood Road.
While all four corners are included in the design parameters, the southeast corner will get the most attention from designers. It will include a lighted welcome sign that features way-finding elements and a landscape design in tune with the principles of Frederick Law Olmsted, whose 190th birthday falls on April 26.
A new sign for Riverside-Brookfield High School on the northwest corner of the intersection is also referenced in the design specifications, which were quietly rolled out in late January.
Submissions are due back to the committee by March 12, and designs will be unveiled at a kickoff event on Olmsted’s birthday. That design competition is just one element of a summer-long celebration of Olmsted planned by the FRED (Frederick Riverside Education Design) Steering Committee.
The group formed late in 2011 and includes Riverside Trustee Mark Shevitz, Tom Lupfer of the Economic Development Commission, Cathy Maloney of the Landscape Advisory Commission and Harjit Singh of the Riverside Arts Center. Both Maloney and Singh are board members of the Frederick Law Olmsted Society, which is one of several sponsors of the FRED events this summer.
According to Lupfer, the idea stemmed from a conversation he and Shevitz had regarding potential events for promoting what Riverside had to offer.
“I’m in landscape and he’s a marketer,” said Lupfer. “Olmsted was a no-brainer. Let’s market the landscape.”
The design contest packets were sent out to three landscape trade associations – the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association, the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association.
On Olmsted’s birthday, April 26, the FRED committee will roll out Planters on Parade, an outdoor art/landscape design exhibit in Riverside’s central business district. The planters will be on display in downtown Riverside until Aug. 18, which coincides with a three-day symposium on landscape and garden design.
Groups of three planters, painted by local artists and planted by local contractors and retail centers, will be placed at 10 locations in the central business district. At the end of the summer, the planters will be auctioned off.
In addition on April 26, some 50 members of the American Society of Landscape Architects will be in the village to host a panel discussion on Olmsted and the sustainability movement.
The FRED Education and Design Weekend event, Aug. 16-18, will include both landscape industry and public seminars at the Riverside Township Hall and the library, walking tours of the village and other events involving landscape design – from Olmsted to contemporary trends.
“We see it as a way to bring as many people to Riverside as possible,” said Lupfer.
At the special weekend event, the winner of the First/Forest design competition will be announced. In June, community members will be invited to vote on three finalists chosen by village commission in May.
The winner of the design competition will take home a $1,000 cash prize, but it’s not certain when, or how, the design will finally be implemented or funded.
Riverside Village Manager Peter Scalera said that while the village of Riverside owns some of the land on the two eastern corners, much of the land is owned by the Cook County Forest Preserve District, so they’ll be involved in the process.
“It will involve us working with the forest preserve district on negotiations on the use of that property,” said Scalera.
What might help in negotiating some access to that corner for landscape design is Parkview Avenue, the short, curving cutoff road that connects First Avenue and Forest Avenue.
The road at one time served as access to a home operated by the forest preserve district as a watchman’s house. That house has been demolished and the road serves little purpose. Because it serves no use for the village, the street hasn’t been repaved and it is crumbling apart. The forest preserve district would like the road abandoned, said Riverside Village Manager Peter Scalera.
According to information in the design competition paperwork, funding for implementing the design and the two signs (one for Riverside and one for the high school) has not been finalized. Neither the village nor the high school district has set aside funds for the plan. The two signs are estimated to cost between $30,000 and $40,000 apiece, according to the competition rules.