Summer of the dumpster

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others:

Housing comeback, right on my block: Been a bleak five years, right? This week is the anniversary of the implosion of Lehman Brothers and all the pain and anguish which has followed as real estate collapsed and the broad economy shrank and shuddered.

Well, you'll be glad to hear this is not a treatise on economic theory or a rant against corporate greed. It is simply an observation that on my block, the 300 block of South Humphrey in Oak Park, the housing recession ended this summer and reinvestment has begun.

Two new roofs. Three houses freshly painted. A fabulous, to-the-studs makeover nearly complete. A new garage built. Fancy wood fences going up. It was dumpsters galore, nails being pounded at 7 a.m., roofers from foreign lands speaking … what, Polish? … and one day as I worked in the garden, the Hispanic house painters next door singing ballads in Spanish. Lovely.

Up on the corner, technically the 200 block, a really grim foreclosure after a really long and grim decline, was closed out and new life was breathed into a century-old Victorian. It was as if you could feel the collective spirit of our block rise as that home came back to life. The fence that had been collapsing and propped back up for four years was suddenly hauled away and replaced by … what? … yes, a white picket fence! Fifteen years of what was once a lovely garden, now gone mad, was exfoliated, allowing the wraparound porch to re-emerge. The house was painted a new shade of green, the deck rebuilt, new gutters hung.

Now it awaits a buyer, and all of us who have watched our equity shrink these past five miserable years, sit wondering if it can really sell for $750,000. Anything close and we will all cheer.

Very quickly: Jill Salzman the founder of the Founding Moms, an online and face-to-face resource for women with entrepreneurial impulses, was just named to Forbes "10 Best Websites for Women Entrepreneurs." Jill, who brings staggering positive energy to all her diverse efforts, has grown Founding Moms into a national entity. Her husband, Adam, is on the Oak Park village board. … Was a little embarrassing last week when our front page picture of an outdoor baptism conducted by Village Church was partly obscured by a sticky note ad from Village Church. Total coincidence. … Ben Meyerson, our former Oak Park village hall reporter and then editor of one of our now defunct city papers — who else but newspapers uses that great word "defunct"? — is the new editor of the Sun-Times-owned Oak Leaves and Forest Leaves. It, Ben, is on. …

Ugliness called out: Could the CTA scrape together enough tokens to finally paint their end-of-the-Green-Line water tower. A rusted hulk reaching for the sky, its paint job has reached the end of the line (almost poetry). … Could the White Sox season be any more brutal? Lifeless, inept, boring, and, seemingly, never ending.

This is it?: River Forest officials are officially enthused about plans to turn the old Hines lumberyard into 10 townhomes. While the neighbors won't gripe about the somewhat high-end and decidedly low-density housing, there had been talk of finding a retailer to juice the village's sales tax revenue. … And with Hines gone and Forest Park dismissive about selling off its vacant parcel on Madison Street, Fenwick High School has now missed out on two sought-after sites to build its first football stadium and athletic facility. What's Plan C?

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