...And That's My Opinion©
By Sandy Goldman
The Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon
Last week I went to a Garden Party. Not exactly like Ricky Nelson’s garden party but interesting nevertheless. It was at a home in a northern suburb and attended by a large group of Rogers Park ex-pats. I think that Carol and I were the only current residents of this community. Needless to say, the conversation evolved around the last election. Everyone had a theory and there was much lawyering about the challenge.
But finally the talk turned to a more pertinent subject— Rogers Park: its past, its present, and its future.
“Well,” I said, “the past is well documented in several excellent books and even in some of my past columns. The present is empirical…walk around the neighborhood.”
The part about the future is when the conversation came alive.
“The future doesn’t look too bright,” said a recent émigré to a northern suburb.
I said immediately, “Au Contraire,” (You know how much they like to speak French on the North Shore), “There are some very positive things happening in Rogers Park.”
“Give me an example,” said someone who had moved away several years ago. “I don’t see much change North of Howard.”
“No, perhaps not,” I responded, “but remember this, North of Howard does not represent all of Rogers Park, but still—improvement is on the way. Near the corner of Howard and Clark there is a 14 story residential and commercial rental apartment building under construction—although it is on the Evanston side of the street, its influence will be felt all along the street.”
“Across the street,” I continued, “ are the new Pivot Pointe Condos and two new restaurants at the shopping center. The former Gateway Grill, now The Amphora Restaurant, featuring Mediterranean cuisine and the Harambee Restaurant featuring unique dishes from Mozambique, Angola and indeed, the African continent. Just south of there will be a new fire station---finally. I think also that I don’t want to dismiss the Gale Community Center, which is also in the construction phase, even though it took years of community power fighting political shenanigans to get it started, albeit a much diminished building when you compare it to the older plans.”
“And,” I said, rolling along, “At Jarvis and Greenview is an area now known as Jarvis Square. It features an Irish Pub, a coffee shop, a deli, an upscale full-menu Italian restaurant, featuring oven-baked pizza, a dog grooming business, a used bookstore. A gourmet wine shop is soon to come.”
“Go there, take a look,” I intoned.
Yes, now tell me about Morse Avenue,” challenged another former resident. “I lived near it and I kept hearing about this streetscape and that streetscape; this plan and that plan, ad infinitum.” (Sometimes they like to show off their Latin.)
“Well, streetscapes aside and there have been many under various names,” I replied, “and they should be put aside because I don’t think that they will ever produce anything except some fancy streetlights and unattended flower urns and some garish banners. There are, however, positive developments on Morse Ave. Unfortunately some are too slow in developing and some are under-funded.
“ Near the beachhead of Morse is the old standby Leona’s, actually at Lunt. Then moving west from Sheridan Road there is the Morseland, developing into a first-class venue for food and fun. Across the street, new luxury condos sit atop a real estate office. Soon to come in the former Cobblers Mall at 1330 W. Morse will be a 300-seat live-performance theatre, the Morse Theatre and full-scale restaurant, The Century Public House. Work has started. Soon the condos at 1444-48 W. Morse will be completed, thankfully!!
“At 1501 Morse an entrepreneur has opened a new coffee shop called The Common Cup. Across the street to the north, the building is in deep rehab and there will be new condos or rentals. At the site of the old Adelphi theatre, now demolished, there are plans for commercial and residential condos.
“Then” said one of the recognizable ex IVI/IPO members, “you must think that the progressive movement of Orr/Moore and others has spawned success.
“Non, Non,” I said, (continuing in their favorite affectation) “it happened in spite of or despite those politicians and the outlandish socialistic philosophies of their followers. It came about because people saw an opportunity, took a chance and overcoming obstacles, acted on their plan”.
“I must admit,” said one partygoer “ I drive home every day on Sheridan Road and it looks pretty nice.”
“Oh, thank you ”I exclaimed, “finally a positive thought. At the south end of Sheridan Road, just north of Devon, Loyola U will soon develop two new structures at the site of the present Fine Arts Studio, which will add to the mix of that area. No matter ones’ position on TIFs or on the university, it will be an improvement over what is there now and it will bring in concomitant businesses, and residents— students and otherwise.”
“But,” said an ex-member of a not-for-profit group now raising her family in a vanilla community, “ one of the not-for-profits says that the area is losing rental units to the disadvantage of low income folks.”
“So they say,”
replied, “but on the other hand we will gain home owners who pay taxes and who
stay in the community and participate in activities rather than live en
passant.” (I think I’m getting to like this French thing.)
“ I just moved from Rogers Park and Clark Street is a mess,” said a well-groomed young woman.
“Were you a renter?” I asked.
“That answers the point just discussed. But, my dear, you should have seen Clark Street years ago; talk about a mess. Clark Street today is an improvement and is continuing to improve. This is especially true with the coming proposed construction of a commercial and residential building on the old Mega Mall site. We still have the A&T grill and The Taste of Peru and a soon to be refurbished Mc Donald’s at Pratt and the famous Clark/Devon hardware store”.
“But what happened to Affy Tapple,” came a voice from the rear.
“I don’t profess to know,” I said. To some ex-pats, the exodus of this particular business seems to be watershed mark. “Perhaps they needed more room and there was no city/neighborhood liaison to help them. But in all fairness they never asked for help nor were they ever aligned with Rogers Park. Under the new management, with some few exceptions, they were sited in Rogers Park but never bought into the community.
‘‘Clark Street may be a different mix than many of you remember but there are variety of business who seem to be healthy and prosperous. The future is yet to come!!
We did not talk crime or demographics because the beer and wine were flowing and the bar was first class. The hostess was bringing out the food and I was ready, so I turned around and left the group muttering and sputtering.
Altho I was not the host - it did turn out to be My Garden Party……I wonder if they will invite me back?.......
...And that's my opinion.
And I'm Sandy Goldman
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