Villages are funny places. When we think of our Chicago villages we often view vibrant downtowns surrounded by stores, a central green, and people strolling brick paved streets. Village planners, working with architectural firms, often create mockups of how a community will use a village center. What is funny is an overwhelming majority of the physical space that comprises a village is not in its downtown. Most of a village’s physical space will be taken up by residential housing, following by streets, parks, schools, etc. There are perimeter areas on the outskirts of a village’s boundaries that often do not immediately come to mind when creating a mental model of a village.
A great example is the school walking routes as defined by the Village of Wilmette (View map as provided by village). At first glance there is an abundant amount of pedestrian intersections and school crossing guards available to get students to school. When looking a bit further to the west, we begin seeing less crossing guards with none assigned to the middle school, Marie Murphy. Even worse is that west of the Eden’s highway we see no planning taken into consideration whatsoever. Loyola Academy does not even show up at all on the map, well it does show up but only the word “ACADEMY”. Avoca West Elementary which is listed on Wilmette’s own site under education does not have a plan at all, even though as posted on the site, “The greatest number of our students live in Wilmette”. On final inspection it turns out that at the bottom of the map the village has included the following disclaimer, “Schools west of the Eden’s Expressway not included”. To which one can conclude that the village is aware of the western boundary but decided not to include it in plans for safe walking routes.
As we stated in our opening, villages are funny places.