Thursday, December 30, 2010

Uptown: A Year In Review (Part 1)

It was a very, very good year for Uptown in some respects; in others, absolutely horrendous.  Here are some of the notable moments that we covered on the blog.  Part 2 will be coming up soon, either on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, depending on how long our boss makes us stay at the office and/or the anticipated severity of the hangover.

  • The year started with a new business, The Center for Yoga & Meditation, offering free classes for the month of January; and an Uptown fixture, Shake Rattle & Read, celebrating its 44th year of operation(and its 24th under the guidance of Ric Addy).  Not a bad way to kick off a new year!
  • Uptown was featured on WCIU's "On the Block" segment.
  • Somerset Place became the target of a federal investigation.
  • Selected residents living near Maryville got letters from Sedgwick Development explaining their proposal for development on the site, which included high-rise buildings, a hotel, a gourmet grocery store, a gym, parking, restaurant, tennis court, and townhomes.
  • El Pollo Loco closed its doors with no notice.
  • SL Grill opened at Lawrence & Sheridan.
  • We started hearing whispers about a brand new TIF to fund the Maryville project.
  • Aon/Combined Insurance announced it would be closing its longtime office at 5050 Broadway and moving all its employees downtown.
  • Plans for a new TIF to fund the Maryville project became official.
  • CPNA announced a long-anticipated dog park would be coming to Clarendon Park.
  • Uptowners were early-voting and attending candidate forums for the February 2nd elections.
  • The Buttercup Playlot Advisory Council formed, with the purpose of making the playlot an attractive and safe haven for kids.
  • Crew was voted the best gay bar outside of Boystown by Metromix readers.
  • An ominous first occurrence that became a year-long trend:  Gang shootings.  A teenage student walking to Brennemann Elementary School was hit by gunfire and refused to cooperate with the police.  Sigh.
  • Agee's Pizzeria opened at 1118 W Wilson.
  • A low turnout for the election.  Heather Steans handily won over Jim Madigan, Greg Harris ran unopposed.
  • A UU reader did a phone interview with Target brass about the Wilson Yard store and was able to confirm that Uptown's Target would open in July.
  • A medical supply business opened in the empty storefront on Sheridan that was best described as the former future home of Labor Ready.
  • An agenda item in the CTA meeting minutes was the first hint we had that there might be Wilson Yard TIF money going toward a rehab of the Wilson El station.
  •, broadcasting from Lawrence and Kenmore, packed up its weather station and closed shop.  First Pollo Loco, then Pete's?  Say it ain't so.
  • Breaking a promise that all TIF matters would be fully transparent to the community, Ald. Shiller sponsored Amendment No. 2 to the Wilson Yard TIF with no community notice or input.  Later, the TIF tab disappeared from her website.  So much for transparency.
  • Very sad news:  Sgt. Alan Haymaker, responding in his patrol car to the call of a burglary in progress, skidded on Lake Shore Drive at Irving Park and passed away from his injuries, becoming the first Chicago police officer to die in the line of duty in 2010.
  • The return of something no one had missed:  Gang street violence returned to Sheridan and Leland and continued sporadically throughout the summer and fall.
  • Another first of a disturbing trend that lasted throughout the year:  Daytime gunfire on crowded streets.  A woman waiting for a bus, holding her baby, was shot at Wilson and Sheridan in the middle of the afternoon.  Police officers en route to services for Sgt. Haymaker were driving through the intersection and made some fast arrests.
  • Ald. Shiller painted a rosy picture of the future retail in the Wilson El Station when she spoke to Uptown Business Partners, mentioning a French marketplace where the Wilson Mall was, among other things.
  • The first of several fires at Lawrence House revealed the absence of working fire alarms.  That, and many other code violations, put Lawrence House into Housing Court by mid-year.
  • Cheaters (renamed The Dilemma) started filming at various locations around Uptown.
  • Construction was completed on the two residential rental buildings at Wilson Yard.
  • Somerset Place's last residents were relocated and the facility officially closed.
  • A Chicago cab driver, an Uptown resident, was charged with attempting to send funding to Al Queda.
  • A row of storefronts on Argyle Street that burned in 2008, and had sat empty and boarded up ever since, began to get rebuilt.
  • We couldn't stop laughing when we saw that Ald. Shiller's portrait in the art show 50 Aldermen/50 Artists was based on a photo that ran in Uptown Update in 2007, taken by one of the founders of the blog.
  • Andersonville, which straddles the Uptown/Edgewater boundaries, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The month ended with the wildest night in memory.  Two residents of Magnolia Avenue argued, leading to one stabbing the other.  As police, ambulances and neighbors filled the street, a car fleeing another crime scene turned onto Magnolia, only to find his escape route blocked.  The car hit several police cars before driving onto the sidewalk, terrifying and barely missing pedestrians.  Later that evening, a gang riot involving gunfire took place in front of the Wilson el station.  Even later, there was a fire at a residence on Lakeside Place that injured three people and displaced 21.  In one night, there was a stabbing, a stolen car, a sidewalk escape, a gang riot with property damage, and a residential fire.  We don't want any more nights like that.
  • We found out the happy news that Uptown would be getting its first street festival in many years, the Windy City RibsFest.
  • The stabbing victim from Magnolia Avenue passed away, making him Uptown's first murder victim of the year.  Rest in Peace, Joshua Spencer.
  • Aldermanic rumors fly, with James Cappleman and Don Nowotny unofficially throwing their hats in the ring, along with Gerald Farinas, who informed UU that he did not welcome publicity for his campaign, and Michael Carroll, who announced in 2009.  Ald. Shiller was quoted by her friend, the Sun-Times' Laura Washington, as saying she kept "mulling and mulling."
  • The Clark Streetscaping project began.
  • The first of several police-sponsored nighttime bike rides through Uptown took place.
  • The Uptown Theatre was placed on Landmarks Illinois’ top 10 list of endangered historic places... for the third time.
  • The new and improved Ba Le opened its doors, right next to its previous location.
  • The news broke that the all-too-familiar Anna Green was arrested for prostitution just a month after getting out of prison for a similar conviction.  The bigger story was that it was Arrest Number 300 for her.
  • Kahawa House moved from its Montrose location to become The Broadway, next to Borders.
  • The ever-persevering Black Ensemble Theatre announced that it had raised enough money to buy its own theatre on Clark and Sunnyside, and would be breaking ground in the fall.
  • A CTA ticket agent was arrested for selling marijuana from his booth at the Wilson el station.  Perhaps he should have teamed up in a "small business incubator" with the Cornerstone security guard who was convicted of selling heroin to shelter residents earlier this year.
  • Puptown was named the Number Five Dog Park in the country.
  • CBS2 did a story on Uptown residents working to combat gang violence, after a street rioter was filmed hiding a large club in his clothing and a resident found a pickaxe left over from the "attempted fisticuffs."
  • Streets & San Superintendent Don Nowotny officially kicked off his campaign for alderman.
  • The two-block-long Broadway streetscaping project began.
  • The CDC rubber stamped approved the creation of the Montrose-Clarendon (Maryville) TIF, at Ald. Shiller's request.
  • Sedgwick Developers held a community open house to talk to residents about the proposed Lake View Station project.
  • Mary Ann Smith was honored for allocating more than $14 million of her aldermanic menu money to improve the parks of the 48th Ward during her tenure as alderman.  Extraordinary.
  • "The Dock" restaurant opened in Montrose Harbor.
  • Another fire at Lawrence House, with four people hospitalized for smoke inhalation.
  • Iyanze was named as Uptown's sole representative at Taste of Chicago.  Not bad for a newcomer.
  • The Green Mill was named by Esquire as one of 15 Bars Every Man Should Drink in Before He Dies.
  • The CTA confirmed its $3 million upgrade to the Wilson el station, saying that construction would be starting in the fall and continue for 6 to 12 months.
  • Argyle Street was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Ald. Shiller, troubled by inconsistencies in the developer's plan, put the Maryville project on hold, but said since the TIF was already in place, it will continue to collect property taxes from buildings located in the newly formed TIF district for the next 23 years.
  • James Cappleman officially kicked off his aldermanic campaign.
  • AT&T started looking for staff to work in its Wilson Yard store, scheduled to open in the fall.  (As of today, no AT&T store has opened.)
  • Uptown's farmers market opened in the parking lot at Weiss Hospital, and continued into the fall.
And that was only half of it!  Part 2 coming soon.


  1. Wow. Didn't read the whole thing, but man, you guys put a lot of work into this! (No Offense, but I read the blog all year.) I hope you are making some duckets!

    Happy New Year everybody! I encourage my Uptown peeps to donate to Cornerstone before the year ends.

  2. what a year. thanks for the compilation!

  3. No neigborhood in the city more badly needs a blog like this and likely couldnt sustain such an interesting year round blog either.

    How about a book or movie Deal?
    Uptown Update a neigborhood under siege! But the citizens arent willing to give up. Even with the crooked politicians, the crazy gangbangers, the wandering psych patients and the evil yuppie condo owners!

  4. I was a resident of Lawrence house for 14 months and it was just pure hell, from the vermin infestation to constantly being solicited for money, by prostitutes or by people trying to sell something they just ripped off moments before.