Countryside has certainly evolved in many ways over the last 50 years. Since its incorporation, the City of Countryside has tripled in population. The 2000 census resulted in a population count of 5,991 residents—a modest 4.8 percent increase between 1990 and 2000. The local population continues to gradually rise, hitting an estimated 6,031 in 2003 and 6,095 in 2008. By 2030, the city is expected to reach a total population of 6,287.
CELEBRATING 40 YEARS IN 2000: Memorial Park
As part of the City’s 40th anniversary celebration, a neglected portion of property at 55th Street and Plainfield Road was redeveloped and introduced as Memorial Park. The park, built in honor of those who have served time in the U.S. military, is a linchpin in the Countryside community. It is here that residents and visitors will find the clock tower and carillon— an important symbol representing the City of Countryside. So important, in fact, that the clock tower was recently incorporated into the City’s logo. Visitors to the park enjoy the sounds of up to 350 songs played by the carillon every day between Noon and 6 p.m.
COMPREHENSIVE PLAN: Vision for 2024
Thoughtfully preparing for the future is integral for continuing community prosperity. After 14 months of assessing various issues, needs and priorities, as well as reviewing input from the Plan Commission/Zoning Board of Appeals, local residents and businesses, the City developed its Comprehensive Plan: Vision for 2024. The plan was approved by the City Council in November of 2004.
Vision for 2024 was created with a purpose of establishing long-range plans for the enhancement, development and growth in the City of Countryside—now and 20 years into the future. Included in the official policy guide are the goals, objectives and policies for the future of Countryside, including proposals for the improvement of the city’s existing character, preservation of important existing sites and recommendations for new growth and development. Among the community issues addressed are traffic, residential neighborhoods, commercial corridors, land use, open space and targeted redevelopment areas, to name a few.
Vision for 2024 is available for download on the City of Countryside’s Web site, www.countryside-il.org.
A New Mayor in Town
Longtime Mayor Carl LeGant held office from 1978 until 2007 when he handed over the reigns to current Mayor Robert Conrad. Mayor Conrad presides over a six-member City Council, which includes six Aldermen, a City Clerk and Treasurer. Members of the City Council serve four-year staggered terms in office and join together twice a month (the 2nd and 4th Wednesday), except for the months of November and December, in the Council Chambers at City Hall.
IL Route 66 Heritage Project
Illinois Route 66 is “Where the Mother Road Begins,” traveling 436 miles southwesterly from Chicago to East St. Louis. In the late 1990s, it was named a “state heritage tourism project” and on September 22, 2005 earned designation as a National Scenic Byway. This designation led to the formation of the Illinois Route 66 Heritage Project, a non-profit organization created in order to develop a Corridor Management Plan for the historic highway. The City of Countryside and its Community Development Department were chosen as the Chicago/Cook County Regional Coordinator for the IL Route 66 Heritage Project.
Joliet Road, or IL Route 66, travels through Countryside and its neighboring communities. The Wishing Well Motel was originally located at 6363 Joliet Road in Countryside, serving as a popular spot for Chicago entertainers and passersby. The iconic Wishing Well road sign is now an exhibit at the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac. Just outside of Countryside Route 66 fans will find the Wolf’s Head Inn in Indian Head Park, Snuffy’s 24 Hour Grill in McCook, Route 66 Classic Motors in LaGrange Highlands and Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket in Willowbrook—all of which represent the Route 66 experience.
Flagg Creek Heritage Center Campaign
The Flagg Creek Heritage Society has instituted plans to build a new museum facility along Wolf Road, just north of the Vial House. The Flagg Creek Heritage Center will stand two stories high and will have 5,500 square feet of space for collection storage, exhibits and programming. This exciting new community facility will depict the stories of the National Heritage Corridor and the people who have made this area what it is today. It is designed to serve as a flagship local heritage center.
The ambitious fundraising efforts of the Flagg Creek Heritage Society have begun, with the official launch of the campaign held on May 17, 2009. For more information, visit the society’s Web site at www.flaggcreekheritagesociety.com.
DEVELOPING COUNTRYSIDE: A New City Center
The City of Countryside has a vision, which is clearly laid out in its Comprehensive Plan. Included in this vision is a mixed-use development, which will serve as the “gateway” into Countryside. In addition to serving as a hub for shopping, dining and entertainment, the City will incorporate pedestrian-friendly walkways and attractive streetscaping along north LaGrange Road. New lighting, landscaping, crosswalks and pedestrian oases at intersections are included in the beautification plan.
The City Council has, in recent times, created and achieved the development of a business district along LaGrange Road, between 58th Street and Joliet Road. The Council is also inquiring into a possible land acquisition on LaGrange Road in order to expand the district. The district will be located in this blossoming business district.
Also part of the development campaign for the City of Countryside is determining a possible location for a new City Hall, the redevelopment of Countryside Plaza and the completed enhancements and additions at Salem Square Shopping Center, Autobarn Mazda and Dominick’s.
An Overview of Countryside Today
The City’s vibrant business community, comprised of approximately 475 businesses, continues to aid in sustaining a strong tax base, which provides residents with high-quality municipal services, programs and infrastructure. The local school districts persevere in the installation of educational excellence, the City’s Recreation Department and parks system remains committed to providing outstanding community programming and enhanced facilities, and the Countryside Police Department and the Pleasantview Fire Protection District work hard to ensure community safety on a daily basis.
Countryside’s ideal location—a quick 15 miles outside of downtown Chicago, minutes from Midway International Airport and just around the corner from I-55 and I-294— continues to be listed among its finest assets. This position in one of the country’s largest counties (Cook) provides a tight-knit suburban essence in the vicinity of Chicago’s big-city amenities and attractions. To many, Countryside is regarded as Chicago’s Western Gateway.
Tourism in the Chicagoland area is exciting, and Countryside is right in the midst of it. From local attractions along Route 66, outdoor endeavors at Arie Crown Woods and Sundown Meadows Forest and the nearby Brookfield Zoo to Chicago’s shopping, dining and cultural avenues, Countryside residents and visitors have it all right at their fingertips. Accommodating area visitors, whether in town on business or pleasure, are several Countryside-based hotels equipped with more than 450 guestrooms. Among the choices are the recently renovated Holiday Inn Countryside, the Best Western Chicagoland-Countryside and the long-standing, family-owned LaGrange Motel.
The residential landscape of the community is represented by an attractive combination of historic residences and new homes, all of which are located in quiet, friendly and well-maintained neighborhoods. Current and potential residents take pleasure in the assortment of home styles, from modest bungalows, Victorians, Colonials and contemporary homes to condominiums, townhouses and apartment complexes. Plus, with no municipal property tax and affordable real estate options, Countryside is an excellent investment for many.
Countryside has, no doubt, transformed from a sleepy, undeveloped prairie land in its earliest years into a truly dynamic City in 2010—all the while maintaining the genuine values and traditions on which it was originally founded. Many residents who came to Countryside 50-plus years ago still call it home, as do their children and grandchildren.
Here’s to another 50 years, Countryside!