Monday, March 18, 2019

Uptown Update Endorses Ald. James Cappleman In April 2nd Aldermanic Runoff

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
from 1926
One of Ald. Cappleman's original campaign promises was to reopen the Uptown, and he has worked tirelessly since his election in 2011 to make it happen. $75 million just didn't fall out of the sky. The deal announced last summer was years in the making. If all goes as planned (and it has so far), renovation work will begin this summer, and soon, Uptowners old (us) and new (Marianne Lalonde) will once again have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty and majesty of the country's largest free-standing 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.

After Ald. Cappleman worked with the CTA and the Obama administration to secure funds, 2015 brought a massive overhaul that included demolition of the old station and the long-disused "Wilson Yard" rail lines. A complete rebuild of the tracks followed, with a new station that debuted in 2017.

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
One of the things that we love most about Uptown's current direction is that the neighborhood is finally becoming a destination for people from around the City. Under Ald. Cappleman's leadership, development is underway all over the 46th Ward.

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
There is no doubt that Chicago needs more affordable housing options than it currently has. But as much as affordable housing advocates wish it to be so, Uptown cannot be a focus of government-subsidized affordable housing, as CHA and IDHA will no longer fund low-income housing in most parts of Uptown due to oversaturation. Uptown has more subsidized HUD units than any other community in the entire city, with 2,750 units. By comparison, our neighbors in Lincoln Square have zero, and North Center has 99..

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
Some residents have lived in this neighborhood for decades. James Cappleman has been actively involved in 46th Ward politics and public service for roughly twenty years. His opponent in the runoff, Marianne Lalonde, has lived in Uptown for three years, and certainly does not know Uptown the way that we, and many other residents, do.

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


  1. A well-written and thoughtful endorsement. As a resident of Uptown for the past decade (and an Uptown Update reader for nearly as long), I couldn't agree more!

  2. I've lived here for over 30yrs and can remember the neighborhood going back well over 40yrs.

    Capp is a great alderman. Let me emphasize that CAPP IS A GREAT ALDERMAN.

    I admire Lala's work ethic, but her and JON-ROBERT standing there when Capp was being called a racist was wrong. Hell just marching on his condo was wrong. March at his city office or his campaign office, but have the basic decency to leave him and his neighbors alone when they're at home.

    Was there ever a protest at Shiller's house? I don't think so and while people suggested it Cappleman was always decent enough to push back against it--as was I--Uptown's Leading Online Pain in the Ass.

    The Wilson L Redevelopment was coming no matter who was alderman, but Capp made it better through encouraging moving of supports and various other changes in the project. The synergy that he's created with that project is amazing. All this development around there didn't happen magically. It happened because of the hard work of him, his staff and the fact of the project itself--also a thriving national economy has helped.

    I suspect Capp's proudest of the development at Sarah's Circle where he stood against many of his supporters to insure that needed social service happened. It's one thing to oppose those who oppose you, but it's another thing to oppose your supporters. Battered women and their kids will benefit from Sarah's Circle long after most of us have moved on from Uptown to whatever awaits us in the next life--I expect to be fetching cigarettes for Shiller in hell.

    Capp is consistently misunderstood by many people who don't recognize the steel behind his rather quiet persona. I suspect some of that is based on him being gay and his height.

    It takes a tough person to sit there and smile as the idiots protest in your office or in front of your home and suggest you're responsible for everything from gingivitis to Trump cavorting with Putin.

    As for Lala while she clearly has a big brain she lacks experience and wisdom, but she makes up for that with her smirk and sense of entitlement. I look forward to her losing on election day not only because Capp is the better candidate, but because she's earned that loss. Maybe she will learn from it and gain some wisdom--I hope so.

    Anyhow early voting is now open at Truman College so get over there and vote. Encourage your neighbors to vote.

    Remember friends don't toss away eight years of hard work and neighborhood improvement for someone who lacks the wisdom and decency to avoid marching on an opponent's home. Couple that with her seeming belief that the answers to all problems involve more low income housing, no police presence and her election and I think the choice is clear--Vote Capp!

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Also at Capp's victory party, unless restrained by police or security, I will do the Pulp Fiction dance with an Uma Thurman impersonator from the newly opened Uptown Baton Show Lounge.

    Hell it might even be Uma herself, but my next ex wife might "end me" if I did that.

    1. Wow, calling candidate Lalonde "Lala" sounds like you are ridiculing her (and you are). Your dismissive attitude toward someone that has worked hard in this ward to make it better is male condescension.

      Longevity in office is not a qualification for reelection. It is more likely that that official is more entrenched in the machine.

      I like change. I like it when someone comes to my building to discuss issues. Marianne has been doing that for years. Have only seen Mr Cappleman once, 5 years ago during election season. I'll take Marianne. She is more connected to the community and less connected to the old boy network and misappropriation of TIF's.

    2. Wolfie,

      don't get your underwear in a bind.


    3. Clearly you are not interested in a conversation. Let me know when you want to drop the troll act...assuming it IS an act.

    4. OH woof Woofie Did I hurt your wittle fweelings?

      Here let my sister dance you out of here.

    5. Woofie,

      one more thing.

      No mention of her long three year tenure in the ward AND her participating in protests in front of Capp's condo where chants calling him a racist were delivered AND chants for "abolishing the police" were heard?

      Join me on election night at Capp's victory soiree. You can buy me a drink. I hear they're going to have IrishPirate Red Rum cocktails on special for the occasion.

      Mention the name "Kubrick" and get two for one.

      Mention the dismissive "Lala" and buy everyone a drink.

      You have no idea of what's going to happen over the next two weeks do you?

      Watch what a well disciplined campaign does to a campaign built on belligerence, lies, entitlement and millennial angst.

      Ms Lalonde has a lesson coming and it's going to be oh so fun to watch.

      See ya Woofster.

    6. Andy, I Think something that is getting lost In the discussion is the fact that there are people like my family that have been in uptown for multiple generations, that remember some of the harder aspects of living under the last alderman. Multiple shootings that went unaddressed, garbage everywhere, vacant property being broken into and vandalized, Housing in a state that was not up to code, Drug deals in Clarendon park during the day, The Sheridan mall off Sunnyside being unsafe. In 03 I got jumped at 5pm outside Wilson, got the crap beat out of me for $20 and a Nokia. Went to the ward office to talk about how I was now the 3rd person I knew who got sent to the hospital in the last couple years, asking what can we do as a community? I was treated in a dismissive way. There are long time members of this neighborhood that have legitimate concerns that aren't rich condo people, that feel that Lalonde might not understand the old scars of this neighborhood. The rhetoric and the posters being put all over uptown personally Make me feel like she doesn't. I am pro police accountability, I am also pro police because I remember a time when it seemed like the alderman was not helping the police do their job. Understanding the history of any neighborhood is Important that's why I am voting for Cappleman.

      Everyone who lives here deserve a voice and to be heard. I plan to live here for a long time regardless of the election, We can listen and work with each other or we can go back to 20 years ago, becoming even more bitter people with bitter divisions. These are not binary issues we are dealing with, Multiple truths exist. I hope she will pledge to listen to all people of the community and detail a plan to keep it safe.

  3. Well said! Definitely voting for James Cappleman!

  4. Very well written. I've been here 6 years now. A lot of good things have come to Uptown in that short time, with minimal negative gentrification impacts thanks to the abundance of affordable housing. Cap has my vote 100%.

    1. Minimal gentrification? You need to do some more research. Just because you may not see it. Does not mean that minorities aren't being forced out in droves.

      Affordable housing? Affordable to whom? I moved here 7 years ago, my rent has gone up over 30%. The Cost of Living over the same time frame has gone up 10% (per Social Security Administration). When rents increase at a rate that is 3 times the cost of living, that is not affordable.

    2. You must not qualify for anything in the Affordable Housing Ordinance

  5. I guess I'll wade through the copious amounts of trash and cast my vote for alderman. Maybe the Uptown Update can make it a point to Ald. Capp to clean up the neighborhood just like he improved other aspects of Uptown.

    1. Eli, be sure you are out with your block club next month for Clean & Green activities!

  6. In my opinion that protest went way over the line. What are the rules? When the rules are broken what can be done?

  7. Stop gentrification? How is that not outright racism? Is that the acceptable kind? Why is a race, moving in or moving out,a factor? Would it be ok to say we need to stop "thugs" from moving into the neighborhood? This is Chicago racial make ups if neighborhoods change.......I am white but my girlfriend is Puerto Rican.....we bought a condo here to years ago. we get a pass? Or is my whiteness(gentrifying skin color) overshadowing her Puerto ricanness?

  8. Not to mention, there are affluent people of color... My husband and I are Black and we bought a condo here last year precisely because the neighborhood is improving. And we're not especially unique. I suspect that a thriving Uptown would attract other minorities with means who don't want to have to choose between living well and living in a racially/ethnically diverse neighborhood.

    1. If you click on the most recent data from the census bureau you can see the demographic chances in Uptown from 2000 to 2010 and then to 2016.

      Interestingly the African American population increased slightly from 2010-2016 while the hispanic and Asian populations dropped a bit.

      Biggest change in the 30yrs I've been here is the drop in the hispanic population. That's less gentrification than changing immigration patterns and immigrants moving directly to suburbs without living in city.

      Interestingly I'd expect the absolute numbers of all groups to go up in Uptown over the next few years as thousands of new units of housing open up. The relative percentages of the various groups will change a bit, but there may very well be more people of every group living here. Damn gentrification!

      Most interesting change I've noticed in the last few years is a slight movement of Asian Indians into Uptown. That's perhaps the one group I never saw here in significant numbers in the past.

      Neighborhoods change as different people and groups move in and out. Uptown doesn't belong to any one group of people and it doesn't truly belong to anyone who lives here now. We're all just temporary visitors unless we get planted in Graceland after our deaths. What we should all endeavor to do is make our own little bit of Uptown better for our presence.

      Uptown belongs to the future and the future is never quite now so go out and plant a tree and come back in forty years and look at it.

      Fifty years ago my then kid self and dad planted some trees on the parkway of the house he built. Those trees are still there, he's long dead and I moved away two generations ago yet the good that we did still persists.

      Uptown for the Future!

  9. Let me start by stating that I believe Lalonde’s participation in the protest outside of Alderman Cappleman’s home is a disqualifying event. Chanting that he’s a ‘Racist’ (the gay, liberal, former social worker) is shameful and not acceptable in the Real World. It also shows terrible judgment and for that alone, Cappleman is the only choice in this race.

    Last night I played around on Uptown Update (resourceful!) as well as Google, comparing Alderman Cappleman’s 2018 Year-in-Review Email Blast to test the ‘theory’ that minorities are being pushed out of the Ward in Droves.

    If you add up all the units in the new projects delivering in 2019, you get 914 units. That’s probably like 1200-1400 people that will be out sometime this Summer filling up the restaurants, concert venues and small business that Uptown truly cares about. It will also lead to a boat load of new Property Tax revenue which will help support additional ‘services’ we all crave more of.

    How many residences were replaced by these 914 units? THREE units. THREE #&!@^# units. So much for ‘pushing people out'.

    Also, Kudos to the Alderman for pushing Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards Project to increase the on-site ARO requirements from 300 -> 600. That’s a huge win, even if he was outvoted on delaying the Full City Council Vote.

    When I hear Lalonde’s platform, the questions pose ‘what will it do for her cause’? Generally, that cause has little to do with hyper-local issues, which is the crux of the job she’s running for.

    When you hear Cappleman speak, the question posed is ‘what will it do for the 46th Ward?’.

    Uptown right now is one of the most beautifully diverse neighborhoods, filled with incredible Entertainment options, proximate to the Lake and ‘close enough’ for those who work downtown.

    After the wins of the Wilson EL Station, Uptown Theater Renovation, Double Door’s new location, Baton Club’s new location, the Clarendon Park Fieldhouse renovation or redo and the aforementioned Developments, which will bring spending money to the neighborhood and a jump in the tax basis; this is an easy choice.

    We need someone capable of fulfilling the neighborhood’s potential and for that, I urge you to have your friends and neighbors ‘Vote Cappleman’.

  10. Capp is EXTREMELY timid, and while I fully expect him to win a 3rd term, he will always be runover by NIMBY block clubs, strongarm mayors, and even homeless people on the El. He's nonconfrontational, and that's a great quality in life, but not necessarily in governance. Capp is at the mercy of shouty loud voices, because it would be rude not to be.

  11. My comment likely won't be approved, as most are not, but here's a random Celtic Maruader thought: They are always after ME lucky charms!