Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Development Plugs Along In Uptown

By Lorraine Swanson, Editor, News-Star

More than 100 information-starved Uptown residents crammed into the Kinetic Playground at 1113 W. Lawrence Ave. to hear updates on various developments happening around the neighborhood.

The March 19 community meeting was sponsored by the Uptown Neighborhood Council, a grassroots organization formed in 2003 to give residents and business owners a greater voice in development in their neighborhood.

"This is a community meeting to talk about all the good changes happening in Uptown," UNC president Katharine Boyda said. "All too often we focus on the things that aren't happening."

The "W" word-Wilson Yard-the stalled development on the site of a former CTA maintenance barn that burned down in 1996 and has remained empty ever since despite a $43 million injection of public TIF money, was off limits.

Only when Chicago Department of Transportation project manager Lynn Hollenberg mentioned that "Target was coming" did the audience burst into laughter. The retail giant has yet to make a formal announcement about whether it still plans to anchor the 200,000plus-square-foot development.

Asked where she had heard that Target was coming, Hollenberg said, "around the office."
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  1. This is all very nice but has everyone forgotten about Sheridan Road and the lovely lakefront east-west streets that have been stable areas in this community for years?

    I am going to be frank about this because it is true for many of us over here: we get on Lakeshore and drive north or south when we are looking for opportunities to dine and shop. Or, we take one of the convenient buses on Marine that can get us downtown cheaply and quickly. Or, we take circuitous paths to get to Andersonville when we want to walk and would like to dine outdoors.

    There is a lot of money leaving the pockets of lakefront residents and it isn't ending up here. A lot.

    Sheridan Road and the poor pedestrian conditions on Lawrence, Wilson, Montrose (and sometimes Argyle)serve to cut us off from some of the new restaurants and options that are cropping up on Broadway. For example, I pick up take-out from Agami and Marigold 99% of the time because otherwise that would mean walking home via the intersection of Lawrence and Sheridan at night (shooting there yesterday). And if everything goes according to Shiller's plans, there will be a day labor agency on Sheridan which will likely carry some of the activity that is occuring on more southerly parts of Sheridan beyond what was formerly a perceptible dividing line. (Shiller just got north of Lawrence a few years ago.)

    Everyone can find areas of Uptown that deserve more attention and whose time has come. I just wanted to point out that businesses should keep in mind how nearby blighted streets are functioning as barriers that keep nearby residents from patronizing local businesses.

  2. Well stated. I feel the same way, and it extends further than dining. For example, I needed to join a gym but the idea of walking home from Bodyfit at night made me nervous, so I joined one near my work for $30 more per month (and that I'll rarely use on weekends since it involves going downtown). Would I have prefered to go to a gym that's more convenient? Absolutely, but safety is more important to me.

  3. Absolutely the conditions you both talk about exist on Uptown's major arterial streets. They are dark, they are dirty, they are empty of shops and restaurants that bring life to a healthy community.

    They will change. One block at a time. IF you want to see the infectious spread of thriving retail in Uptown. Get active. Get involved.

  4. There is one person could be a HUGE driving force behind making these main streets safer. Her number is 773-878-4646 and her name is Helen. Give her a call and see if she will help. Also, ask her about how she works with CAPS to make our streets safer.

  5. I am active and involved. I do things off of this blog. However, we are fighting spot zoning. We are fighting unchecked aldermanic privilege that runs amock and goes unchecked. We are fighting social policies implemented through zoning. In other neighborhoods it is towering developments that are allowed into neighborhoods of modest homes and 2-flats. We have the opposite problem in Uptown. We have the purposeful insertion of things that are designed to hinder, block or stave off market forces. When large projects are allowed in there is always a bargain and the spoils go back to the alderman and her cronies.

    Don't tell me to sit back and be patient and wait my turn like a good little child. It will be a very long time before someone opens up a restaurant or a quality business next to some of these notorious locations where gangbangers hang out and where people loiter habitually. You know that and I know that.

    I don't know how much more active I can get when the local businesses I want to help thrive pull a "Heisman" on us when we ask if they have been doing all they can with their clout, connections and money (some of it from the taxpayers.) I don't know how much more I can do when I attend community meetings and everything has already been decided by a shadow group by the time I get there. I don't know how much more I can do when few reporters will cover our stories and no one from the City or beyond will take my disenfranchisement seriously because it would topple the precarious web of deals and agreements that keep them where they are.

    I am getting active and I feel as if there is a movement for other people to do the same. For people who have a stake in the status quo, it probably won't be to your liking.

  6. Here's a fun little tidbit plucked from yesterday's column.
    Apparently, a real study has concluded that people who live in unsafe areas don't exercise as much as those who live in safe ones.

  7. Was there any mention of redevelopment of Delray Farms building on Broadway at the meeting? I noticed it was fenced off for construction

  8. Someone in another post mentioned that a license was issued for CVS for the Delray Farms spot.