As 2013 recedes in the rearview mirror, here are a few things we wouldn’t mind happening in 2014:
Real economic development in Riverside
The Village Center building, while its residential units are mostly occupied these days, is a sorry sight from a commercial point of view. That large, inviting corner commercial space — and nearly all of the others — remain vacant years after the building’s completion.
The Arcade Building, likewise, has been given some new life, with Flur Bakery anchoring one corner and the upper floors rented. But large first-floor commercial vacancies remain very visible.
In 2013 there were some public and private efforts to heighten Riverside’s image and market its historic downtown. With key properties changing hands in downtown Riverside, we’re hoping the long-awaited rebirth of Riverside’s downtown will begin to move forward in 2014.
There’s a willingness inside village hall to help make that happen, and its relationship with the business community has never been better (at least in recent memory). Maybe this is the time lightning will strike.
While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made a splash in 2013 with its plan to build a flood wall along West Avenue in Riverside, raise the Groveland berm and turn Park Place into a levee, that proposal is not only years and years away from becoming a reality, it has the village of Riverside plenty spooked about what it’s actually going to look like when it’s over.
At this point, it might be best to turn attention away from that complex Riverside proposal and toward Brookfield, where the village can make good on its plan to fund an ejector pump at Salt Creek and Washington Avenue.
The area — because of all of the storm sewer lines that empty into that outfall — has become a retention pond during high-water events. The ejector pump would help relieve that kind of flooding for residents. But the village should also have a look at the Forest Avenue levee, which was hastily built in the 1980s and could use a full, engineered renovation to help protect the homes in that area.
These strong storms, it appears, are here to stay. Communities can simply chalk it up to nature and let residents suffer — or they can address the problem head on.
Look at the levy
North Riverside has ignored a levy of a different sort for the past quarter-century. The village has consistently decided to freeze its local tax levy and instead rely on sales taxes to fund the vast majority of village operations.
And while sales taxes will always be the revenue driver in North Riverside, the village should be open — occasionally and not even at maximum levels, but at some level — to raising its tax levy to produce revenue.
Just a couple of years since a financial panic caused cuts and trimmed personnel, the village maintains the tradition. The arrival of Costco allowed North Riverside to dodge a bullet.
But sales taxes are fickle. Red Lobster was a lock, right? Sears and Penney’s will always be here, right?