Pioneer Press News-Star
It was Alderman Mary Ann Smith's turn to give her annual state of the 48th Ward's side of Uptown address at a business luncheon hosted by Uptown United and the Chamber for Uptown Business Partners on Nov. 20.
Addressing a business audience that turned out on a rainy, misty afternoon at Crew Restaurant at 4804 N. Broadway, Smith spoke on a variety of topics ranging from mass transit renovations to development north of Lawrence Avenue.
"We've met with major investors and developers, and how they feel about coming and making proposals to invest in Uptown," Smith said. "We feel such confidence in this community, and some (applicants) aren't very familiar with this community, but we feel very fortunate to have them."
Smith told the audience that the two words that keep coming in conversations with investors are "urban authenticity."
"People love being in places like Lawrence and Broadway," Smith said. "The second is 'resilience.' It means we're not dependent on one business for our ongoing survival."
Smith said that CTA L stations between Lawrence and Granville are in line for some much-needed refurbishing, including painting and new lighting between now and April 2008.
"The L stations are receiving significant investment from the CTA. These are not monies from the state, but new monies captured internally from the reorganization of the CTA," Smith said. "If any community understands public transportation (Uptown) does."
A push is also in the works to open a new Metra train station in Edgewater near Peterson and Ravenswood Avenues. Smith acknowledged 14th District State Rep. Harry Osterman's efforts to get state funding for a local Metra station that would relieve the 60,000 cars that travel through Edgewater each day on their way to Lake Shore Drive.
"(A new Metra station) will serve the entertainment and restaurant community extremely well," Smith said.
More public art projects are also being planned for the underpasses leading to Lake Shore Drive at Lawrence and Foster Avenues, similar to the bricolage mural in the Bryn Mawr underpass that has won rave reviews from residents and visitors to the Edgewater neighborhood.
Planning and installation of a new mural will begin after bridge repairs to the Lawrence Avenue underpass are finished.
"We'll be calling on the community to help design what the Lawrence Avenue project will say," Smith said. "As we enter our neighborhood it is a very small statement of who we are. The bricolage (mural at Bryn Mawr) reflected the history of Edgewater, Lawrence Avenue (will be) very much about who Uptown is and its history."
Smith also announced that the Urban Land Institute's professional planning and research services have been contracted to plan business growth along Argyle Street. The organization helped in the re-planning of Lawrence and Broadway's entertainment district, which is listed in the National Historic Register.
"(The Urban Land Institute) has met with local people and have walked Argyle Street many times," Smith said.
For the next several months, Smith continued, the institute will organize teams to talk to community residents and make proposals.
"We'll be coming up with direction for how to help Argyle Street meet its potential," Smith said. "The last number I heard is $90 million generated by businesses on Argyle. I see much great market space connected to Argyle. The bottom-up plan to renovate (Argyle) is in motion right now."
Smith also mentioned a proposal to bring highly sophisticated educational programming to McCutcheon Elementary School where 45 percent of the students are homeless.
"We have a very challenging situation and also have a school that could and should be doing more in the community," Smith said.
"The building at McCutcheon is only half filled. We're looking to bring extraordinary kinds of competitive education that will serve both the dependent (student) population and also the broad community."
In response to an audience member's question regarding commercial property-tax relief to the 48th Ward's many independently-owned businesses, Smith answered that an attitude adjustment is needed in Springfield.
"Until our governor or a governor decides to deal with the situation with a small income tax increase or a small statewide initiative, we're stuck with coming up with a solution from a grass-roots level," Smith said.