Alexander Lumber’s Move to Ridgefield, Proposed Metra Station Implications

When I was posting about the 400th day of Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley’s 75% city sales tax increase, I was fantasizing that Alexander Lumber was moving to the unincorporated Ridgefield location of the old 84 Lumber property in order to obtain a competitive advantage over Crystal Lake-based lumber yards like Menard’s and Home Depot.

That would be the result, but the reason for the relocation from its current 6.33 acre Virginia Street Road and Rakow Road location is more prosaic, even though economically based.

The firm is combining it McHenry and Crystal Lake locations, according to Alexander’s manager.

Then, I saw the Northwest Herald story about Metra’s wanting to build a Ridgefield commuter station.

It’s right next to the Alexandra Lumber site. You see it in the foreground here from Country Club Road.

Here’s a view from the tracks next to Seeger’s Grain elevators. As nearly as I can figure it, the station platform would be at the tip of the more or less pie-shaped property beyond the barbed wire fence of the Alexander Lumber Company property in the foreground.

Kevin Craver’s article says putting the commuter station on the property is contingent on its being annexed to Crystal Lake.

If that happened, there is no doubt that the city council would also annex Alexander Lumber, removing, of course, the 0.75% sales tax advantage the future unincorporated local bestows.

How would Crystal Lake annex property in the fiercely independent Ridgefield area?

Take a look at this map:

The Google map pointer is across the street from the proposed Metra station.

Crystal Lake’s city boundary is west of Route 14 just south of the northern section of Ridgefield Road. My understanding is that the property owner across Route 14 to the east, north of McHenry County College would not mind being annexed.

Somehow the city would have to annex a parcel at least 72 feet wide (remember how O’Hare Airport is annexed to Chicago by the Kennedy Expressway). Maybe it will be across the cornfield to the west of Ridgefield’s Regional Sports Center.

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Correction noted by a reader:

” In the article you wrote ‘remember how O’Hare Airport is annexed to Chicago by the Kennedy Expressway.’ The expressway has nothing to do with how the airport property was annexed to Chicago. The connection between O’Hare and the rest of the city is about one half mile south of the expressway. There is a narrow corridor of city land along the north side of Foster Avenue sandwiched between Rosemont and Schiller Park.”
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Looking at the map, it appears that the proposed station location will not be convenient for McHenry County College students, especially, if they had to walk a Country Club Road route to the campus. (My guess is they would just walk across the train tracks, taking the shortest route to their classrooms.)

But maybe there won’t be many of them taking the train.

Although the tracks are close to Ridgefield Road near the college’s eastern entrance, the land in that area is low and often covered with standing water.

If the college board wanted to kick in enough money, maybe the station could be built near where its Tartan Drive butts into Ridgefield Road. It could even donate part of the recently purchased 56 acres the land and ask Metra to use whatever it planned to use to buy land on Country Club Road to construct an over- or underpass to the nearby tracks.

It is worth noting that former Metra Board Chairman Jeff Ladd lives in the neighborhood and long sought a Ridgefield train station.

There’s one other observation that might be of interest. Realtor Mike Deacon’s name is on the sign at the Metra site. It’s probably just that he is a friend of McHenry County Board Chairman and former part owner of Flowerwood, whom the Northwest Herald reports is part of a trust owing the property.

Deacon was also the broker when the Crystal Lake Park District purchased Viking Dodge. Note that the Viking sign has been removed.

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