From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier, September 29, 2016
There was a time when the hill was on the corner of Prospect and Park Aves. provided a place for my kids to run around and throw a football. That free, park-like area all went away this week when a big earthmover started churning up the dirt.
This is progress.
“It behooves every man to remember that the work of the critic is of altogether secondary importance, and that, in the end, progress is accomplished by the man who does things.” Theodore Roosevelt
In the spring of 2013, the village board asked the staff to engage the local people of Clarendon Hills to help update the old 2006 Downtown Master Plan (DTMP). The village needed the community to get involved to help figure out what we could make of our downtown. They held several “town hall” type meetings at Clarendon Hills Middle School to start a dialog, and create a vision for moving forward.
After a lot of public discussions and honing down ideas, a vision statement was created to help guide the process of moving forward with the plan.
“The Plan should encourage downtown public and private investment provided that such investment protects or creates evolving/gradual change, small-town charm, more retail choices, unique draw or destination, services for local residents, a family-friendly atmosphere, safe pedestrian circulation, and active living with photogenic, vibrant, progressive/self-sustaining pleasant spaces.”
This was such an exciting time for many of the businesses in town. Getting the community talking about new streetscapes, how to enhance the area and how to attract more shoppers was good news for the shops. There were a lot of people involved, and it allowed for free-flowing ideas.
One of our schools surveyed the students about what they wanted, and a passionate young person came up with the idea to have a rollercoaster looping around the town. That was creative and it certainly would make our town a destination!
The village asked 20 stakeholders comprising of business owners and residents to get involved and join committees for the DTMP.
I wrote a column in April of 2014 about how I admired the people on the committee I was asked to join: the zoning committee.
It was a seasoned and diverse group of people who worked well together for a common cause. It was so diverse with backgrounds and ideas that any one person could have easily hijacked the process for their own agenda, but didn’t.
As we went along, everyone involved had a genuine interest to help the cause, and found out what the future would hold for downtown Clarendon Hills.
One of the basic principles of the vision statement was to keep the small-town charm. We realized there would be no charm without businesses providing retail choices and services. We needed to either open the traffic flow from Ogden Ave and from 55th Street or get more people to live in and around the downtown area that would use the shops. Opening up traffic was not an option.
I have the honor of living in Clarendon Hills and have wonderful neighbors. Because of my job, I spend a good portion of my life in the business district and consider the businesses and building owners my neighbors too. I’ve helped many of them with their leases over the years, and have a strong desire for them to survive.
I love walking down to get lunch he Village Gourmet or at the Little Creperie for one of their unique crepes. What would we do without a hardware store? The new addition of Sue’s Cakery certainly builds on the charm that we have. Add an English Garden Flower Shop and Talley’s Kitchen + Bar, and we have a recipe for a family-friendly atmosphere.
Progress feels good, doesn’t it? It might put our village back on the map to the young homebuyers who might have skipped over us and gone to other towns. That’s a discussion for another column…..
When the corner of Park and Prospect is complete, there will be more people who will gladly contribute to the vitality of our town. I might be losing a park, but it wasn’t mine after all.
As Dr. Benjamin Franklin said, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”
Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princess; Indian Guide Dad; a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker. Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around the area. It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlights a new business or announces school happenings. He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting residents and even a little about history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”.
88 Park Ave