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Old 04-23-2012, 08:33 AM
 
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Which is better?...Elmhurst vs. River Forest. My husband and I are looking to buy/build a single family home. He works at Rush Hospital and I work in Downers Grove. He works odd hours and needs a reasonable commute. We are looking for a good safe community to raise a family, with good schools, fun activities...good restaurants and shopping are a plus. Both suburbs seem to have pluses/minuses. Thoughts?
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Old 04-23-2012, 02:11 PM
 
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As you state there are pluses and minuses to EVERY kind of real estate decision, and the implications of what you are willing to comprommise on have substantantial consequences both economically and in day-to-day satisfaction.

The differences in commute time, especially "off peak" are probably the easiest thing to accept -- neither town is going to be close enough that it would make sense to pop home for lunch nor is either town so far from Rush that the commute in unusually long. That said it probably makes sense for a couple with dual careers with thoughts of having children to factor in the likely parent to respond to midday events and such being a bit closer from work.

The range of lot sizes in River Forest is probably a little broader than in Oak Park but you will almost certainly be getting more outdoor space in Elmhurst than in a more urbanized suburb. Of course if you desire even large lot sizes you've probably already consider towns like Oak Brook or Burr Ridge though in either of those towns you really give up walkability to any sorts of shops /eating spots accept in the most unusual of circumstances. Given the larger population of Elmhurst there are probably a greater number of locations that are a longer stroll from commercial districts than in River Forest, though both towns are probably a notch down from places like Oak Park or even Hinsdale when one factors the relative ease and speed of having connections to the CTA or the superior Metra service of BNSF vs UP West line in the respective towns...

From a realistic perspective that includes time on market, percentage of ask vs close, and total volume of sales it would be hard to argue that Elmhurst is other than "healthier" compared to River Forest. Of course a lot of this reflects that kind of homes that one is likely to encounter in either town AND the prefernces of buyers -- on average the housing stock in River Forest is more "vintage" and while mostly in very good condition there are simply fewer buyers to whom such homes will appeal. That said, Elmhurst has a nice mix of house that stretch back to same era as the bulk of River Forest inventory as well as new construction, combined with the signficantly larger pool of available house in larger Elmhurst odds are good you can find the home with the right mix of "old fashioned charm and modern updates" at a more attractive overall financial committment (including ongoing property taxes) in Elmhurst...

The mix of both public schools and private elementary schools in both towns would seem to suggest a similar level of choice but in my experience (having helped people purchase homes in both towns over the years...) there are big differences in the sort of social characteristics of families especially when it comes to the private schools. In short, a huge percentage of families at St. Vincents in River Forest are residents of Elmwood Park and other towns with schools that have less desirable public schools whereas in Elmhurst the choice is more often based on personal perferences. When it comes to the high schools level (which for a family that does not yet seem to have kids may seem far off, but given the relative costs of moving ought to be a factor...) both towns are far more similar -- in short both York and OPRF are large schools with a high percentage of local support but some concerns about uniform performance. For folks who have a desire to utilize parochial options (for anything from concerns about size to sports to personal values / tradtions) Elmhurst offers Immaculate Conception and Timothty Christian while River Forest offers all-girls Trinity and co-ed Fenwick in nearby Oak Park.

Personally if I was working with a couple weighing a decision between such towns I would strongly suggest LOTS of dinnertime trips to the various business districts in each town, some midday trips to the playgrounds, several weekend outings and a short list of maybe 3-5 homes in each town. The things that each couple / person decides tip the scale one way or the other are likely to be pretty subtle but trying to undo a half-a-million ++ wrong decision can be awful....
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:11 PM
 
Location: North Jackson
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In other words:
- River Forest is significantly smaller than Elmhurst,and has no real "business" district of its own. Shopping is left to Oak Park and Forest Park.
- I'm going out on a limb, but I would assume River Forests elementary and middle schools will blow the doors off of Elmhurst's. Oak Park High ranks higher than York High as well. If it's private you want, then I guess that doesn't matter.
- River Forest real estate will be significantly more expensive than Elmhurst.
- Although mileage-wise Elmhurst isn't much farther from Rush than River Forest, in times of traffic it will take significantly longer to get to Rush from Elmhurst, than from RF. Elmhurst is on the wrong side of the I290 (Eisenhower) bottleneck between Hillside and Maywood.
- Living in River Forest you still maintain some street-cred for living near Chicago. Elmhurst is pure suburb. If you're a city person at heart, RF will appeal more to you.
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:21 PM
 
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Where in Downers? North or south end? I say Elmhurst, I have commuted downtown from Elmhurst on the metra, it is a piece of cake. And elmhurst is very nice. But how odd are the hours - metra may not run late enough and he will have to use the EL. Last stop I think is Forest Park.
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:40 PM
 
Location: North Jackson
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gardener34 View Post
Where in Downers? North or south end? I say Elmhurst, I have commuted downtown from Elmhurst on the metra, it is a piece of cake. And elmhurst is very nice. But how odd are the hours - metra may not run late enough and he will have to use the EL. Last stop I think is Forest Park.
Rush isn't downtown, Rush is on the West Side, right on Congress. Metra doesn't go there.
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Old 04-23-2012, 09:18 PM
 
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Like JP above, I would agree that Elmhurst is significantly more suburban than RF and further from Chicago. That means that you will be less likely to take advantage of Chicago on a regular basis, if that's your cup of tea. Living in Elmhurst means you will go out to dinner in Elmhurst or Oak Brook. If you live in RF, you will go out to dinner in Oak Park or Chicago.

River Forest is also wealthier than Elmhurst. On the flip side, you will definitely get way more for your money in Elmhurst than in RF, and not just lot size. House for house, square foot per square foot, Elmhurst will be cheaper.

Elementaries and middle schools in RF are excellent and extremely well funded (Ipads, etc). If you want Catholic school, St. Luke's in RF has an excellent music program and probably less dreaded Elmwood Parkers as Chet alluded to above (?!). There are also at least two excellent Montessori schools in OP and RF, which is another private option. Another private option is the Children's School.
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Old 04-23-2012, 10:41 PM
 
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Elmhurst elementary schools compares extremely favorably by any objective measure of school performance -- http://iirc.niu.edu/SearchResult.aspx?type=CITY&searchText=$ELMHURST$ -- all its elementary schools have been recognized for academic excellence and two out of its three middle schools have been similarly recognized.

Nothing wrong with Rver Forest schools, but clearly nothing that does any "blowing away" -- http://iirc.niu.edu/SearchResult.aspx?type=CITY&searchText=$RIVER%20FO REST$


State tests show OPRF having noticeably larger gaps in performance compard to York -- http://iirc.niu.edu/CompareSchools.a...90222050260003

I suspect that anyone that has already done the research to narrow things down to a couple of suburbs is probably capable of differentiating between factual information and fabrications...

Last edited by chet everett; 04-23-2012 at 10:55 PM..
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Old 04-24-2012, 11:58 AM
 
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Thanks everyone. I work in North Downers Grove...right off the highway.

You're right..River Forest is a closer commute. I've heard a lot of great things about the RF/OP area..and it would be nice to have close access to the city...and all houses there seem to be very well maintained. But I've also heard from people that it's a bit of an "island" with Maywood "across the forest" and the Austin area not being so good. Some people have also mentioned that it isn't urban or suburban enough for them..kinda in between.

Elmhurst seems to be surrounded by nicer suburbs and appears less congested...but it's a longer commute from the city (My husband will not be able to take the train due to his hours) and the tear down effect has resulted in huge houses in small lots surrounded by smaller older houses..which looks a little odd. Except for maybe the Cherry Farm area of elmhurst. I'm also not sure if Elmhurst will be too "suburban" for a young couple moving from downtown Chicago.

Again, these are just initial impressions..and I could be wrong. Any other thoughts?...especially from people who live in the areas or have kids?
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Old 04-25-2012, 01:03 AM
 
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Yes, OP borders Austin, and RF borders, Maywood, but it's not as much of a big deal as some people make it out to be (Almost alway people that don't actually live in the area). Both are safe communities with beautiful surroundings. Most of the crime people complain about are property crimes (keep your garage locked and you GPS in the glove box etc...)

As far that OPRF high school is concerned, Chet typically likes to point to the raw data as a measure of the quality of education taught. One cannot completely fault a non-resident for not talking from actual experience. The data only paints a small portion of the larger picture. First it's important to mention that there are many students from OPRF that go onto the highest ranked colleges in the nation, so it's not a case where 1% of students make it out of a sketchy school... OPRF is a great school. The educational opportunities at OPRF are second to none for the hard working student with involved parents.

OPRF has a large population of minority students, some of which don't score well. Some critics (typically people that don't live in OP/RF) say that the school doesn't serve them well, and then point to a lilly white suburb with a hand full of minority students that score well as some kind of contrast with the varying successes of the different schools. The problem is, much of the differences in the social and cultural interaction between a larger majority of minority peers vs a tiny percentage get ignored. The level of parental involvement has been a large factor in the success of a kid's education. Some more questions to ask are whether a large group of similar minorities would do better "as a group" in an institution with higher overall scores. The majority of students do very well, so there must be something of value in the school. I'm sure the countless academics and college level educators would not send their kids to sub par, or even OK, schools, but yet they continue to send their kids to OPRF. I have kids in the schools system, and I know a lot of people that do... we are all involved parents that want a second-to-none education for our children, and we feel that we are getting just that... and it's not just an educational experience, but the experience of a large diverse and integrated community that also gives an experience that's hard to find. Many OPRF students talk about how the school prepared them for college life a lot better than a lot of the people they meet at college.

I would not worry about the quality of education your kids would receive from OPRF if you are involved (same would go for any good school). I would recommend going to each town, spend time walking around, talking to residents and getting a good feel for the community.
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Old 04-25-2012, 09:47 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aria79 View Post
Thanks everyone. I work in North Downers Grove...right off the highway.

You're right..River Forest is a closer commute. I've heard a lot of great things about the RF/OP area..and it would be nice to have close access to the city...and all houses there seem to be very well maintained. But I've also heard from people that it's a bit of an "island" with Maywood "across the forest" and the Austin area not being so good. Some people have also mentioned that it isn't urban or suburban enough for them..kinda in between.

Elmhurst seems to be surrounded by nicer suburbs and appears less congested...but it's a longer commute from the city (My husband will not be able to take the train due to his hours) and the tear down effect has resulted in huge houses in small lots surrounded by smaller older houses..which looks a little odd. Except for maybe the Cherry Farm area of elmhurst. I'm also not sure if Elmhurst will be too "suburban" for a young couple moving from downtown Chicago.

Again, these are just initial impressions..and I could be wrong. Any other thoughts?...especially from people who live in the areas or have kids?
River Forest is a great option, if you can afford it. I would have chosen Oak Park more then RF for a young couple, as you get more for your money and a more diverse community (usually more interesting for younger folks, it seems....). Be kind to your husband considering his hours/commute.... the drive from RF/OP to RUSH even in rush hour is very easy. RF/OP are so convenient to many eateries (and Trader Joe's, Costco etc..), the schools are great, and it is safe. River Forest is very white and wealthy compared with Oak Park, which is more integrated/diverse economically and racially.

Agree that the fears of Austin/Maywood are very overblown. Maywood is on the other side of the of the Forest preserves. It's not like gangs are wandering the neighborhoods. And an island....? What? I guess it depends what you want.... if you want to be in a further out suburb surrounded by other suburbs.... ok move to Elmhurst. If you want to be on the boarder of Oak Park, with a quick drive to downtown Chicago (that's my kind of boarder...) go to RF if you can afford it and don't mind fewer business in your town.

Only you know what you want. Some people really want insular suburban living, with homogeneity... and more chain stores and strip malls. If that's you, live further out. If you like what you've heard so far about River Forest/Oak Park, then go for it.

However, you mentioned building a house. It is rare that this is done in River Forest.
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