Harlem Avenue is not exactly a calling card for either Forest Park or Oak Park. From north to south there are patches where these villages turn their hind end to the busy roadway. In other spots there have been long dilapidated homes and commercial properties. There are strip malls and a cemetery, fast food and a psychic. Then there is that damned cement factory.
The 125-year-old H.J. Mohr & Sons concrete plant sits on the Oak Park side of Harlem at Garfield. Our sister paper in Oak Park reported last week that the business closed unexpectedly in February and that prospects for its sale or reopening are uncertain.
We appreciate the warm feelings of residents who filled their kids' sandboxes each spring at Mohr. We are moved by the online comments of Mohr staffers tracing their employment over generations at the plant.
That said, Mohr Concrete is the ultimate anachronistic land use in a residential community and its likely passing is sad but not bad. We recall the multiple community meetings we covered over the decades with the plant's immediate residential neighbors hollering about endless dust, all-hours truck traffic and the perpetually decaying outer perimeter of the plant.
Its possible redevelopment can be another forward step in the slow reshaping of Harlem, particularly south of the Ike. The Forest Park side of this stretch of Harlem has seen notable market-driven upgrades these past years.
The Review reported last year on the successful effort of a developer to reclaim a block's worth of single family homes which had fallen into grave disrepair. This spring they look sharp. A nearby parcel which once housed a down-on-its-luck gas station has been cleared, we hope for new residential development. Closer to Garfield, there is an effort to assemble and redevelop another parcel.
This is all to the good.
We've written about the Little Library movement. These are the small, front yard lending libraries on a stick. Take a book, leave a book. A good way to build community and foster literacy, you'll find several of these small graces within Forest Park.
But it wouldn't make much sense to put a Little Library right outside Forest Park's big library on Desplaines Avenue. So the creative and generous library folks, who are finding endless ways to foster connection with our village, have created a variation on the theme, thanks to local Boy Scout troops and Tom Kunkel from the Urban Pioneer Group.
The library now features a very small, always open, food pantry at its front door. This is simple. Need something to eat? The small pantry will likely have some non-perishable but sustaining item of food for you. Have something extra in the cabinet at home? Drop it off, offer it up.
Now right across the street at the equally connecting Howard Mohr Community Center, you'll find the full-tilt local food pantry. Doing exceptional work for years, the Forest Park Food Pantry now has an upstart sibling at the library.
This is a good town.