The fabric of Woodridge

"There's plenty to do here," said Woodridge resident Amit Chokski, left, watching son Saazan, 2, play in Hobson Corner Park's water feature. (Benjamin Chernivsky/Photo for the Chicago Tribune)

Through applique and embroidery, the quilt at Woodridge's public library tells visitors this is a village that is proud of its diversity. Its brightly colored squares depict flags and faces from far-away places such as Bolivia, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Poland and Serbia.

Woodridge has no Main Street or 19th century gingerbread houses. It is not a tidy square with a downtown at its center. On paper, it resembles a seahorse, with leafy appendages linked only by transparent skin.

In its short history, though, the 51-year-old village has evolved into a community where residents join arms to form a safety net for their children.

Named for a ridge, not for East Coast towns of the same name, Woodridge includes parts of DuPage and Will counties, plus a sliver of Cook. The farmers who settled this area are gone, but many of their names — including Goodrich, Greene and Nadelhoffer — live on as the names of schools and streets.

Woodridge is no longer the tiny place that Alice Aubele recalls from the 1960s, when her 2-year-old son Richie got a ride home in a police car after wandering off, even though he could only tell the officer his name was "Wichie."

"The officer said he looked like an Aubele, and he knew where we lived," said Aubele.

Nor is it as cozy as it was when former Police Chief Joel Kagann earned a sore arm from waving to the kids who knew him by name in his one-square-mile domain.

"Then, the worst crime was when the big boys chased the little boys off the skating rink," Kagann said.

Today, Woodridge consists of 9.4 square but disjointed miles. Its nearly 36,000 people are a mix of newcomers and natives. The police blotter has worsened to include retail theft and drunken driving, but violent crime remains rare.

The village compensated for its lack of a downtown by creating the Town Centre at the seahorse's heart. It includes the Village Hall, library, post office, public works facility and Police Department.

At the village's southern tail is the 850-acre Internationale Centre business park, which employs about 3,500 people. With Woodridge's growing collection of retailers and restaurants, the Centre has helped the village decrease its municipal tax rate every year for 24 years.

The rest of the village is a medley of residential and commercial developments. Compared with other suburbs of its size, Woodridge has a greater share (50 percent) of multifamily housing.

Woodridge's single-family houses include some 1950s ranches plus lots of 1970s and 1980s raised ranches and tri-levels. Houses built since 1990 make up the village's two-story, higher-priced houses.

"In the most prestigious neighborhoods such as Seven Bridges, houses run from the high $400,000s to about $750,000," said Ron Rose, owner of Rose Realty in Woodridge and a real estate developer. "But at the other end, you can get a one-bedroom condo for under $100,000."

Woodridge has worked hard to minimize devaluation of its properties during the recession, Rose added.

"The magic here is the village's aggressive planning for the future," he said. "It is pro-development. It encourages new businesses and encourages the remodeling of houses that need work."

"Compared to other towns in DuPage County, you get more for your money here," said Mayor William Murphy, a retired educator who has been Woodridge's leader for 30 years.

Like Aubele, he and his wife downsized from their family home after they became empty nesters.

One of Murphy's goals has been enforcement of property maintenance codes.