A funny thing happened after Jennifer Wimmer asked residents about their thoughts on the new Forest Park signs, Nov. 3.
The blue and yellow welcome signs, which simply said “Forest Park,” previously installed on Roosevelt at Harlem and Desplaines, disappeared. Their lifetime? About 72 hours, following Wimmer’s Facebook post.
“They appear to be causing some unnecessary controversy,” Mayor Anthony Calderone told the Forest Park Review. “The project is not done. Sometimes I think that we may jump the gun,” he added.
But “somebody telling me that my opinions are unnecessary therefore suggests I don’t need to talk,” Wimmer said of the mayor’s response. “It wouldn’t deter me from talking about it in the future. People who care enough to talk about it, will.”
In her post, Wimmer wrote, “Thoughts on the new ‘Forest Park’ sign on the NW corner of Harlem and Roosevelt? I think the colors (blue and yellow) make it look a little tacky. I get that it’s the town logo, and it makes sense on the website, but I think it would look much classier just engraved into cement or something, given that it’s a brick structure.”
Calderone seemed to have removed the signs just three days after Wimmer posted on Facebook about them. Wimmer’s post attracted 14 reactions, with some residents including a crying face. The post eventually generated nearly 30 comments, most of which described Forest Park’s signs as “tacky,” “cheap” and “not a good fit.”
“Our slogan is ‘Big City Access, Small Town Charm’ and that’s what Madison Street is,” Jenny Barbahen told the Forest Park Review. “But that sign is just not small-town charm; it’s like a pre-school art project.”
The signs lasted a total of about two weeks. Now when drivers pass the intersections, they’re greeted by a large blank slate, backed by a huge brick semi-circle. A closer look reveals hard plexiglass and the “Forest Park” signs turned backward.
Calderone said the new signs will arrive next spring. They will feature the same “Village of Forest Park” logo that is on the village’s website, said Tim Gillian, village administrator.
“There are too many residents who think that was the final product and developed negative opinions of the entire project based on that,” he said. “So in order to avoid any confusion, it’s easier to just take them down.” Only they weren’t actually taken down, just reversed.
Forest Park’s signs were part of the village’s $4.7 million Roosevelt Road Streetscape project, which received $2.3 million from the Illinois Department of Transportation and $2.4 million in tax increment financing and other funds from Forest Park. Village council members approved the project in early 2015.
Calderone and Gillian each said the two, temporary signs were always part of the project. But they both declined to comment on how much each one cost and said they didn’t know who designed them.
“Probably just the engineer; I wouldn’t say anybody ‘designs’ a sign that says ‘Forest Park,'” noted Gillian.
Forest Park’s engineer did not respond to an interview request.
But the original powerpoints that showcase the village’s plans for the Roosevelt Road Streetscape project propose signs that look identical to the ones placed on the site. Neither Gillian nor Calderone still responded to an interview request about whether the signs were always meant to be temporary.
“They got a lot of negative feedback, needed to make this better, so it seems like kind of an afterthought,” Barbahen said. “They thought this cheap, crappy sign would fly, but it’s awful and now they’re going back and retracing their steps.”
Barbahen, 36, said she’s lived in Forest Park almost all her life. She believes officials should have consulted a focus group about their opinions on a new design. Wimmer agrees: She believes local businesses should have a say in the sign design. Others on Facebook suggested specific designers and contractors who could help the village.
Calderone said officials had already decided on a new sign design. And he said the same contractor for the last signs, Alliance Engineering, would be in charge of building the new logos.
“As somebody who’s happy to see the improvements being made along the stretch of the road because I live right there, it just felt like it was cheapening the look of the area,” Wimmer said. “After all this other work, which I’m sure cost so much more, you top it off with this tacky yellow and blue sign? Ew. That was my reaction, and I wasn’t the only one.”