Working together can spur growth

August 9,1987 By Aid. David Orr

Aid. David Orr (49th) is vice-mayor of Chicago

Rogers Park and Edgewater are currently experiencing a surge in economic development, which presents our community with both challenges and promising opportunities. In the southwest corner of the

49th Ward, the Clark-Devon Hardware just completed a major expansion. Also on Clark Street, the North Shore Theater recently rehabilitated its facade with help from a city matching grant. Leona’s Pizza should bring more than 100 new jobs to the neighborhood, when it opens its new restaurant at Sheridan and Morse in just a few weeks. And Maya Romanoff, a world-renowned fabric designer, recently moved into the ward to expand his business.

These are just a few examples of the high level of investor interest in our neighborhoods, as retail, commercial and residential developers are taking a new look at sites in Rogers Park and Edgewater.

This increased interest was spurred, in part, by reports that our median household income has risen beyond $22,000 per year in 1985, up from $16,760 just five years earlier. And several studies reported that our community could support significantly more shopping districts and retail outlets than we currently have. Presently, many local residents do most of their shopping outside the 49th Ward — which means that jobs and business opportunities are going elsewhere along with our retail dollars. A promising proposal for a major new retail development on the north end of the ward — a multimillion dollar Retail-Transit Center at the Howard CTA station — is now getting serious attention from developers, public officials and community residents. Preliminary plans for the Retail-Transit Center call for a new, modern CTA station, 200 units of new housing, multilevel parking, and 175,000 square feet of retail space. This proposed development could infuse new jobs, dollars and life into the area, serving as a catalyst for the revitalization of the entire Howard Street retail area.

On Sheridan Road, a developer’s plan for a 32-story high rise residential development has stirred community interest in saving the historic Granada Theater. Over the years, many proposals for developing this site have fallen through. Our challenge is to turn renewed interest in the Granada into a force to help develop a workable plan for the theater and neighboring sites, benefit the entire community.

When considering these and other economic development proposals, I want to see that a proposed development creates jobs and keeps spending power in our community.

And like most 49th Ward residents, I want to make sure that proposed developments do not threaten the residential and recreational character of our neighborhoods.

I invite you to discuss these proposed developments with me and my 49th Ward Community Zoning Board, a committee of dedicated neighborhood residents who advise me on key zoning and planning issues. Each of these proposals presents great possibilities for the future. But each proposed new residential building, shopping center can outweigh the benefits.

It is important that block clubs, community groups, local businesses and individual residents consider the potential problems and benefits of proposed developments, and that they communicate their views to me. Each area of our ward has an opportunity to help map the course of its own development, if the residents are willing to get involved.

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For example, two years ago I convened a Sheridan Road Task Force composed of local residents who took a close look at potential development along this key lakefront artery. You may be interested in reviewing the Task Force report, which offers both general guidelines and specific recommendations for future development there.

There are no easy answers and no shortcuts to the task of balancing the positives and negatives of economic development. But by working together, we can help make sure that developments are well conceived and designed to benefit not just the developers, but our neighborhoods as well.


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