It seems impossible that Riverside hasn’t done this sooner, but the wheels are in motion for officials to take stock of its public facilities — from village offices to the water tower to the police and fire stations to that confounding “Youth Center” — and begin planning what those facilities should or shouldn’t look like in the 21st century.
Past looks at public facilities were done in isolation, with repurposing or demolishing the Youth Center seemingly at the center of every such effort.
While that vestige of the 1950s certainly would be part of any plan in the future, what we like about this particular look at facilities is that it’s truly global and, we hope, not confined by preconceived notions about where certain public facilities need to be located.
For example, the village has two fire stations — one on each side of the tracks — just a short distance from one another. Both are small and newer vehicles are a tight squeeze. Does Riverside need two fire stations?
The police station, meanwhile, literally is a fallout shelter and was converted into its present use. It lacks a secure way to transfer prisoners from squad cars to holding cells (which are right out of 1940s Hollywood central casting). And with the coming consolidated dispatch center, the police station will function differently in the future.
Do the police and fire stations need to be immediately next to the township hall, where the village offices are located?
The police and fire stations, along with the old public works garage and Youth Center occupy prime real estate, with views and access to the river that may be more properly enjoyed by the general public.
After all, the Youth Center is built on the foundation of early Riverside’s most public attraction — the refectory of the Riverside Hotel, whose terraces overlooked the river. That property wasn’t intended by the village’s founders to house a series of blocky, utilitarian government buildings.
The village board will pick an architectural firm to assess Riverside’s present facilities and needs and to take a look into the future to assess future needs and where those needs might best be accommodated.
Of course, whatever the final options look like will need public support to turn into reality, so we’re hoping there will also be some sort of public component to the planning effort — maybe via town halls.
Any public facilities plan is going to come with a hefty price tag, one that’s going to require a referendum to make a reality.
While that would give anybody pause, it’s also kind of exciting for Riverside to be at the cusp of a public planning process that could turn out to be transformational. While couched in the usual dreary language of any bid process, that’s what this RFQ is.
And we can’t believe it took almost 150 years for this to happen.