At Long Last, Olympia Fields Subdivision Residents See Sunny Future

Residents of the Traditions subdivision say a new grant will help their senior development recover from Hurricane Ike & developer woes.

Hurricane Ike made landfall in Galveston, Texas on September 13, 2008, about 1,000 miles from Olympia Fields, Illinois.

But the storm's furious rains continued inland to Chicagoland, and its destructive potential remained evident where the ground had not been properly prepared, as in the case of the Traditions subdivision of Olympia Fields.

Here, at this senior living development around the corner from St. James Hospital, the rains left standing water over four feet deep on Vollmer and Crawford roads even days after the flood, said Olympia Fields Village Administrator David Mekarski.

Many considered the flooded streets an unfortunate legacy of Traditions developer George "Bud" Arquilla, who abandoned the development due to financial problems, Mekarski said.

Residents and village administrators viewed the standing water and its attending detours a significant safety risk, as well as an indicator that silt and grit had likely infiltrated the development's unprepared drainage system, said Mekarski.

It was the last straw for Traditions residents who say they'd endured 'factory-second' appliances, ill-fitting windows, and broken promises as obvious as the bumpy, broken road winding around the development, according to Eloise Houston, one of the leaders of the 'ad hoc' residents committee.

But this stormy saga seemed to be giving way to a brighter future with the announcement at Monday night's Olympia Fields Town Board meeting that the village had been awarded a $502,000 IKE Disaster Recovery program funding, which will be used to repave the road and streets within the development, as well as make storm system improvements.

"I want to thank David (Mekarski) for all his hard work," said Village President Debra Meyers-Martin. She also praised Gladys Foster, the village administrative assistant who gathered information to buttress the village's case to receive state funding, even though she was in acute pain and ultimately needed surgery. 

That hard work and pain will be well-worth it, in the view of residents and others attending the meeting.

"This road will be huge," said Sherry Liang, a senior real estate specialist for Baird & Warner, and listing agent for Royal Bank of Canada. She described the current road as a total eyesore.

"When people look at this road, they're concerned," Liang said. "Why does the road look this way?"  

Once a new, functional road is in place, one roadblock to building on the empty lots that currently comprise around half the development will be removed, said Liang.

Traditions resident Alice Porter, who attended the meeting with neighbor and friend Esther Hill, commented that enduring the development's ups and downs had brought residents together. "We know each other, and look after each other," said Porter.

Wanda Cunningham, who said she was disappointed by the low quality of the fixtures installed in her home, said the value of living in Traditions is its strong community.

"It's a beautiful place to live," said Cunningham. "The people there are fantastic. Everyone gets along."


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