Uptown Update has been in existence for 12 years. As we note in the sidebar, we are a group of long-time neighborhood residents who work collaboratively to inform the Uptown community about local events and issues. We are not paid to do what we do. We do this for the love of Chicago and Uptown in particular.
In the 12 years of Uptown Update, we have never made a formal political endorsement. However, the authors of Uptown Update all agree that we enthusiastically endorse James Cappleman in the upcoming 46th Ward aldermanic runoff on April 2nd.
As a group, we've lived in Uptown for decades, and we've never seen this level of excitement and change before. What James Cappleman has done for the neighborhood in his eight years in office has been nothing short of transformational.
Take the much-discussed Uptown Entertainment District. It was always a "nice idea," but nothing ever happened to make it a reality. Under James Cappleman's leadership, that's all changed. The crown jewel, of course, is the rebirth of the glorious and dilapidated Uptown Theatre.
|a sketch of the theater|
And the Entertainment District doesn't stop there. Alongside the Riviera and the Aragon, Ald. Cappleman has successfully recruited the owners of other businesses who are making their way to Uptown to resurrect the neighborhood's historical legacy as a hub of Chicago nightlife:
Club Della Robbia is coming soon as the "sister club" next door to the Green Mill. The world-famous Double Door will be resurrected at the long-empty former Wilson Avenue Theater (which we all remember as a closed bank branch). The legendary Baton Show Lounge just relocated to Uptown after 50 years downtown. Carol's Pub is back from the dead with new owners and an impressive nightly music line-up. Nick's on Wilson has reopened and is thriving. And don't forget the new streetscape on Broadway, capped by the new pedestrian plaza at the Riviera that's in the final stages of completion.
What else? Ald. Cappleman made the Wilson Red Line station his top priority when he took office nearly eight years ago. At that point, it had been voted the CTA's "Crustiest Station," a.k.a. the worst in the entire CTA system, for three consecutive years. Long-time commuters remember the non-ADA-compliant staircases, the collapsed station ceiling, decrepit platforms, empty retail spaces, and the highest crime rate of any CTA station on the North Side.
Uptown now has an ADA-compliant L stop that's modern and airy, as well as heavily used new access to Purple Line Express trains and an auxiliary exit at Sunnyside that provides quick access to Aldi and Target for commuters across the city. The Wilson Station has gone from "crustiest" to "nicest" in the system under Ald. Cappleman's leadership, and it features artwork from world-renowned artist Cecil Balmond to boot (look up when you walk in!).
Across the street, the "old" station house, known as the Gerber Building, was painstakingly restored to its lush 1923 beauty. Chicago Market, a customer-owned cooperative supermarket, is set to move in next year. The Gerber Building was in terrible disrepair inside and out before the rehabilitation, but this jewel of Chicago architecture has been preserved for generations to come.
Long-time Chicagoans will remember the other "joys" of the old station, including the light-blocking dual overhead tracks and 23 driving-lane support pillars that made Broadway and Leland dark and dangerous for pedestrians -- as well as frightening for drivers. Those are now gone, thanks to the Wilson Station rehab, making the entire area modern, open, and much safer for all Uptown residents.
|click to enlarge|
For the first time we can remember, the "Montrose Divide" has been breached. Builders who flatly refused to invest in real estate north of Montrose are now snapping up empty lots, replacing dead zones with housing (both market-rate and subsidized) and retail. Along the way, developers have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Low-Income Housing Trust Fund, which enables 375 Uptown families to remain here by assisting with all or part of their rents.
As an example, Maryville's acres stood empty for years, with abandoned and crumbling buildings, while the owners tried for over a decade to sell it. Now, 811 Uptown serves as a beautiful new gateway to Uptown along Montrose.
There has been repeated criticism of the use of TIF funds that helped finally get the sale done. What most people don't realize is that the Lawrence/Montrose TIF was created by the previous alderman, Helen Shiller. The original plan, orchestrated by then-alderman Shiller and Sedgwick Properties in 2010, called for a $50-million TIF, and a three-tower complex with 850 units. Ald. Cappleman whittled the TIF amount down to $14 million, and oversaw a final plan that created a building that is far more proportional to the community, along with a guarantee of funds to rehabilitate Clarendon Park's dilapidated fieldhouse.
We are within two years of seeing either a completely rehabbed or rebuilt Clarendon Park Fieldhouse that will serve the community for decades to come. There have been two community meetings held so far, taking community feedback into account before deciding on the final plan.
A few notes about Uptown, development, and developers before we continue:
- It is illegal for an alderman to interfere in any way with a private real estate sale. If a property is privately owned, does not receive government funding, and the sale is in compliance with city ordinances, the alderman cannot prevent a sale from taking place. There are some who claim that Ald. Cappleman should have stopped the sales of Lawrence House or the Wilson Men's Hotel. But it was the decision of the owners to sell those properties, and the sales were done in full compliance with City of Chicago ordinances. Jay Bomberg made the decision to sell the Men's Hotel. The Lawrence House was in foreclosure and under the control of a court-appointed receiver for the Minetti family. Affordable housing providers had an opportunity to purchase and rehab both buildings, yet chose not to.
- Even Uptown's not-for-profits are cashing in: Cornerstone Community Outreach sold its Leland House to a private for-profit developer. The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus sold their Maryville campus to JDL and Harlem Irving Cos. Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois sold its Chicago Uptown Ministries building in order to fund its other programs. And who can blame them? Why not use Uptown's booming retail scene to benefit their ongoing good works? A rising tide lifts all boats.
- It works going the other direction as well. For example, Presbyterian Homes had planned to evict seniors from three buildings it owned, including one in the 46th Ward, then sell the buildings to market-rate developers. Ald. Cappleman, with other concerned elected officials, persuaded CHA to buy the buildings, thereby ensuring that they would remain affordable and no evictions would take place. Further, Ald. Cappleman gave public support along with ensuring financing and zoning assistance for the sale of the vintage building at Sheridan and Leland to the David and Reva Logan Foundation for the benefit of Sarah's Circle. That sale, which preempted a sale to a private developer, will create a new permanent home for Sarah's Circle clientele.
- Each new building going up in the 46th Ward must create affordable housing. Since the vast majority of them are being built on empty or non-residential lots, each new development means that new affordable housing is being created, either onsite or elsewhere in Chicago. And that's a good thing.
|click to enlarge|
Which leads us to our next thought - wouldn't it be nice if every community in the city participated equally in providing housing affordable to those who most need it? Ald. Cappleman, in his newly-minted capacity as Chairman of the City Council's Zoning Committee, has worked to do just that. In response to his demand, Sterling Bay, the developer of Lincoln Park's Lincoln Yards project, doubled the number of affordable units, from the required 300 units to 600 units.
That's the kind of thing we'd like to see more of, all across the city, and we believe it will happen if Ald. Cappleman retains his position as committee chair. Aldermanic prerogative has, for far too long, allowed communities to turn away their fair share of affordable housing. Ald. Cappleman has said many times that he's against this practice. We've already seen how effective he can be in that role, and we look forward to another four years of his stewardship of that committee in partnership with either Lori Lightfoot or Toni Preckwinkle.
|from Sarah's Circle's website about the new building|
Ms. Lalonde has a modest record of community involvement -- for example, she is on the associates board of Sarah's Circle (and no doubt appreciates the work that Ald. Cappleman did to facilitate the new shelter at Sheridan and Leland). She is also a first-term president of her block club, Lakeside Neighbors. But that's the extent of her elected experience. She hasn't lived here long at all, and she hasn't lived here for even half of James Cappleman's transformative tenure as alderman.
Ms. Lalonde has been as pugilistic as she possibly can in her campaign to unseat Ald. Cappleman. Her attendance and participation in a recent protest march outside Ald. Cappleman's home -- one where her fellow protesters (the majority of whom were not Uptown residents) pounded drums and chanted "Cappleman's a racist!" to oppose the proposed new police and fire academy -- was extremely disappointing.
We expect more circumspection and frankly, basic decency, from someone who hopes to represent all members of this community. Trespassing on private property, chanting highly charged and inflammatory accusations, and disturbing the peace isn't the kind of behavior we want to associate with those representing us, yet Ms. Lalonde was there, standing alongside and ensuring her 'visibility' as a candidate.
Political posturing aside, we believe Ms. Lalonde clearly lacks the knowledge of Uptown or the breadth of experience that James Cappleman brings to his office. Maybe in time, as she spends more time in the Ward and becomes a more active participant in neighborhood activities, she might have what it takes to become a successful alderman. But that time is not now.
(And, given the record of Ald. Cappleman's runoff challengers in 2011 and 2015, there is no guarantee that Ms. Lalonde will still be living in the Ward by the time the next city election rolls around in 2023).
Although we have occasional disagreements behind the scenes, the group that works the 'news desk' at Uptown Update is unanimous in its desire to see Uptown continue to thrive. For the first time in our many years here, Uptown is not only keeping up with its surrounding communities, it is finally leading the way.
And we hope that you, like us, want to see what's next, after a new L station, a new entertainment district, and the restoration of a world-famous theater that nearly everyone had given up on.
Like us, do you care enough about the creation of more affordable housing all over the city to vote for someone who can make it happen as Chairman of the Zoning and Development Committee?
If you, like us, want to see these things through, we suggest you vote for the candidate with a proven track record of success in Uptown and elsewhere. The last eight years have been measured by success after success, and we will all be voting for James Cappleman for another four year term. We urge you to, as well.
The Uptown Update Team