Ridgeland Common presents a real window of opportunity. An upgrade to the pool, rink, park complex is badly needed. Everyone seems to agree on that. There’s only so much a park district can do with a 46-year-old fieldhouse. The community would benefit greatly from new facilities, but new facilities are expensive.

Taxpayers have faced this dilemma before. The “smart” thing to do is build new, focus on the future, rather than the slightly less expensive patching and mending. A year-round ice rink sounds tempting. An indoor pool, perhaps through a partnership with
Oak Park and River Forest High School sounds like a win-win proposition. Vacating

Scoville Avenue
between the train tracks and
Lake Street
leverages more park space.

A collaboration with the high school might help solve the parking shortage.

The ideas are exciting, the costs potentially daunting. Not surprisingly, money will be discussed later in the planning process. The parks will do well to line up as many alternative sources of funding as possible before asking taxpayers.

Now is the time to get involved (as opposed to pushing the panic button later).

Taxpayers have invested heavily in their community the last decade or so. Property tax bills are back-breaking. The parks will need to make a compelling case.

More trains, not more lanes

If they didn’t stop IDOT’s momentum altogether, a citizens group, with support from village government, gets credit for at least diverting that momentum into a planning process that includes more than simply adding lanes to the clogged Eisenhower Expressway. Instead, the very early model puts the emphasis where it rightly belongs-extending the Blue Line rapid transit into the western suburbs and assorted other transit initiatives.

The Regional Transportation Authority has a forum scheduled for March 12 at Oak Park Village Hall. This is pretty important. Residents need to show up to demonstrate both our resistance to IDOT’s plans and our support for more responsible, environmentally sound ways to improve our transportation corridor.

The starter house gets tougher

We started Monday plugging zip codes into a mortgage brokers’ software trying to find out if major lenders were singling out south Oak Park with tighter credit standards. Well they did give the 60304 zip a “C’ rating meaning that higher down payments would likely be required. Our upset was muffled when we went further and found that 60302, River Forest, Evanston and Glencoe were also awarded “C”s.

Clearly, and logically, credit is getting tighter. A collapse in the housing market ought to have some impact on lending practices we suppose.

The issue though is this: Whether it is 60302 or 60304, it is in the eastern portions of those zips that Oak Parkers have always found their first homes. What passes for affordable single family houses in
Oak Park resides south of Madison and east of Ridgeland.

Higher requirements for down payments, or other added costs tied to mortgages, will make buying that first home still tougher in our town. That is a concern and a caution. That is how the mortgage lending crisis is manifesting itself in
Oak Park in early 2008.

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