The Chicago Community Trust sponsored a series of discussions across the City yesterday. The Trust’s “On the Table” sessions bring together small groups of residents, business owners, and nonprofit leadership to discuss local issues and community improvement while sharing a meal.
I chose to attend the discussion in Rogers Park because discussions would revolve around the partnership known as the RogersEdge Business Improvement Initiative, spearheaded by the aldermen from the 48th and 49th Wards, Harry Osterman and Joe Moore, and including Loyola University’s Lake Shore Community Partners, The Rogers Park Business Alliance, and the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce.
The purpose of RogersEdge is, in the words of Jennifer Clark, the University’s Associate VP for Community and Campus Planning, “to provide more focused support and strategic planning opportunities for businesses and commercial areas within the boundary of Granville Avenue from Kenmore to Broadway, Broadway Avenue from Granville to Devon, Devon from the viaduct east of Broadway to Glenwood, and Sheridan from Devon to North Shore.”
More than 50 people took part in the discussions, which were frank and opinionated. Participants at our table discussed the positives and negatives of the area, the current business mix, and dreams for the future. It’s so energizing to reimagine neighborhood spaces with an eye toward building a vibrant, commercially viable, and resident-friendly community. At discussion’s end, we each allotted our RogersEdge cash ($1,000 apiece) to those suggestions we’d like to see funded.
A report from Lake Shore Community Partners is forthcoming. It will present all the ideas and cash allocations. To quote Jennifer again, “Based on your input and feedback, the report will help us plan and prioritize the next year of RogersEdge initiatives.” The follow-up includes a walking assessment of the RogersEdge business district next week. I’m looking forward to taking part.
It seems to me that the area in question is not just the gateway to Rogers Park, but to West Ridge as well. It is vitally important to the commercial health of West Ridge that such an initiative be undertaken here. We already look awfully shabby when compared to other nearby neighborhoods, all of which are recovering from the 2006 economic downturn. It helps that they have activist aldermen.
I was also scheduled to take part in one of the West Ridge discussions but the bad weather and other hindrances kept me from getting there. I arrived just as the meeting ended. The group recommends creating community gardens.