River Forest, IL

River Forest is closely tied to the larger neighboring community of Oak Park but developed a couple decades later. River Forest shares the same High School with Oak Park, is located just a couple blocks west of Dwtn Oak Park and also contains many great early 20th century buildings including a couple designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and others following the Prairie School design ethic. Development did not come to River Forest with any significance until the 20th century. By 1910 the Village had 2.5K,  4K by 1920, nearly 10K in 1940 and the Village’s population maxed out at 13K in 1970s. Population declined slowing in the ensuing decades thanks to smaller household sizes but recently reversed in the last decade. River Forest now has nearly 12K residents.

River Forest excels with the typical staple suburban amenities of great parks and schools, a very low rate of crime, lots of households with kids and solid retail and cultural amenities. But because of its strong suburban tendencies some of its urban qualities are compromised including a low density, limited pedestrian activity, really no bike infrastructure, limited racial and economic diversity, limited rental options and business districts with lots of auto centric stretches. The last decade’s population increase is likely the result of additional mixed-income developments along River Forest business districts (Lake, Harlem, and North) I hope this trend continues and this early 20th century suburban can continue to urbanize.

Click here to view my River Forest album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Solid public transit access and pretty convenient location to Dwtn.
* Solid connectivity as well. Pretty good for a suburb with most if its population growth after 1920.
* Lots of family households here.
* Lots of walkable schools and all are well rated. Good mixed of public and private.
* Extremely safe community.
* Wide range of for sale options thanks to the large number of condos in River Forest. Single family homes start out at around 500K. 1-bed condos sell btwn 75K-200K, 2-beds condos btwn 175K-600K, 2-bed homes sell btwn 425K-700K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 230k- the mid 1 Ms. Plenty of 3-be condos available selling around 300K.
* Excellent tree canopy.
* Great park amenities with several large wooded parks, and many small-medium sized parks with good amenities spread throughout River Forest.
* Very attractive historic homes.
* Even with larger auto centric strengths in River Forest, the streetscape design is of a high quality.
* Decent cultural amenities with good food & beverage options, a couple Frank Lloyd Wright homes, Art Museum at Concordia University, performing art amenities at both Concordia and Dominican Universities, and convenient access to the Lake Ave biz district in Oak Park which includes many cultural amenities.
* Decent retail amenities including 3 supermarkets, a target, several drug stores, a couple boutiques and clothing stores, several banks, several gift shop, a couple book stores, a hardware store, several dessert joints and gyms, public library & post office, lots of churches and plenty of medical offices. Good access to biz district in Oak Park too.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Sub par urban density even compared to inner ring suburbs in Chicago.
* Bike infrastructure is very limited.
* Poor racial and especially economic diversity as this is a very wealthy community.
* Rentals are pretty limited here. 1-beds lease in the low 1Ks, 2-beds in the mid 1Ks, and some 3-beds that are more expensive.
* A couple decent biz districts but pedestrian activity is pretty limited.
* Modern in-fill is a mixed bag. Plenty of auto centric bldgs along North, Lake, and Harlem but some good more recent mixed-use infill.

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