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I started this blog during the 2015 aldermanic campaign because I wanted to see some positive economic change in the 50th Ward. Such change remains a goal that clearly will have to be accomplished without any help from the current alderman. Healthy, diverse, sustainable business districts aren’t built on sales of phone cards, bottled water, cucumbers, and lottery tickets, and she just doesn’t get it. The neighborhood needs

  • Better businesses, instead of the glut of cell phone, convenience, grocery, and general merchandise stores that are struggling in a market over-saturated with such businesses
  • More diversity in dining options
  • Clothing stores that have wide appeal to a variety of residents
  • Clean streets, clean stores, clean store windows, and attention to details, like attractive window displays

Like other neighborhoods, we need some cultural attractions. West Ridge lacks a central cultural arts center, performing arts space, and an arts district. Yes, there are cultural offerings at Indian Boundary Park, but we are a neighborhood without a single art gallery or theater.

Our commercial districts are plagued by vacant and poorly-maintained storefronts. Very few storeowners or commercial property owners seem to care about maintenance or merchandising, and the overall impression is one of dirt and decay.  The economic downslide won’t end until there’s an alderman committed to working with existing businesses to meet the needs of residents, bringing in new businesses, and creating jobs.

I believe it’s wrong for business and political powers to ignore the needs and interests of residents when decisions are made about commercial development and other issues impacting the community’s general quality of life as well as property values.  I believe that neighborhood residents need to have a seat at the table and a voice in the discussions. We are invested in this ward, too.

But this blog is about more than politics. It will highlight the people, places, and neighborhood organizations that make our community such a good place to live despite the political malarkey–the residents, the artists, and the business owners who contribute so much to this neighborhood.

50th Ward Follies will introduce readers to residents who are working for positive change, and spotlight businesses that reflect our diversity and deserve our support. It will also highlight the activities of community organizations working hard to educate and inform residents on various issues in different areas of the ward. Read our Events page for a schedule of important community events, meetings, and cultural activities.

I hope you’ll enjoy your visits and the information you’ll find here. Feel free to leave a comment or two. I have very strong opinions, and I’d like to hear yours, too.

One last thing: Because I believe that “Corruption begins when things are not called by their proper names,” the proper names will always be used here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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14 thoughts on “Home

  1. Hi. Just happened to stumble upon you after googling the new Rohinga Center. The first line of your Home Page is music to my ears: positive economic development! Having grown up in West Rogers Park, I returned almost 4 years ago as a home owner. Sometimes I’m heartbroken by, for ex., Touhy Ave. where as a kid I could walk to find…just about everything. I wish our leadership would see that we too, could have some of the amenities of an Andersonville or Lincoln Square.

    Anyway, I’d love to talk about what else is going on. Is your readership active? Are you?

    Best,
    Sara

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    • My family has lived at Western and Devon for 52 years and it is extremely sad to see what has become of the area. My family and I would shop Devon avenue all the time, NOW there is not one store I would even enter. The only exception is Villa Palermo because there is nothing else close by and their food is pretty good but so sad I cant walk anywhere there and shop with my kid. I literally have to drive to shop anywhere. It was opposite as a kid, we walked everywhere on Devon and did our shopping. It also saddens me everyday I have to walk across my lawn picking up the countless water bottles and beer bottles and fast food trash people just dump on the lawns when exiting their vehicles. No pride whatsoever….

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      • I absolutely agree. Devon is now a destination only for tourists and Asian Indian and Pakistani shoppers. The Asian population of the ward is less than 15%, and that total includes several ethnicities.

        The dirtiness is simply appalling. We are never going to get rid of the rats because of this park-and-dump mentality. The SSA does not arrange for late-night pick up, so the garbage attracts rats all night long.

        We need a new alderman who will involve the community in economic planning.

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  2. p.s. And other things… Highlighting our incredible diversity! Getting neighbors outside! Cleaning up (as you highlight). Dare I say, “participatory budgeting”?

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  3. What about the new West Ridge Library and senior housing at Pratt and Western? How involved has the larger community been?

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    • The location of the new library was announced October 21, 2016; the first community meeting was held November 23, 2016. There was a large turnout but no answers to questions except “that hasn’t been decided yet” or “that’s still on the table.” Worse, the handouts consisted of four pictures, which community members were cautioned were not representations of what the actual building and apartments would look like. The second community meeting was held March 20, 2017; a good-sized crowd but again no answers. In the four months between community meetings, the alderman did not approach the community for input, nor did she advise the community that a library needs/wants survey was available through the LEARN Coalition. On the Friday before the last community meeting, the alderman produced her own community survey asking residents to choose building and library programming that is important to them. The next day, the Mayor released the building design. It was printed in the Tribune on Sunday, March 19, but residents at the March 20 meeting were told the building may not look like the design and to continue to give input. Another community meeting has been promised but not scheduled. The alderman also announced that she has created an advisory committee, but has not told the community who’s on it or why they were chosen; all members were selected by her. LEARN had nearly 400 responses to its survey; the number of responses to the alderman is unknown at present. Whether the community will have actual input is unknown. It could be that this is all window-dressing and that all the decisions have been made downtown. It’s highly unlikely that the mayor would call the press to tout the designs for the three complexes to be built, which he did, only to give in to community pressure for something else. It’s been nearly six months since the library was announced, yet there’s still no sign in the vacant lot that it will become the new Northtown Library-senior housing complex. I think the community wants input but the alderman seems determined to operate without any transparency, her standard MO. Remember, the building is scheduled to be completed in December 2018, and both the mayor and the alderman are up for re-election six weeks later. We won’t know the details on anything until they can be used as part of a re-election campaign, when we’ll no doubt receive daily bulletins about every nail being driven and every pipe being fitted. This is looking less like a community project and more like a re-election stunt every day.

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    • You are correct that I support economic development. The problem I have with Indian business owners is that they have turned their backs on their immediate market–the 90%+ of residents who are not Indian–and have chosen to serve only their own ethnic group. This business model is not sustainable, as we see from the number of businesses that go under every year. When the first Indian store arrived in 1973, it was welcomed as a part of what was then described as the “International Marketplace” on Devon. But the Indian merchants didn’t want to be part of the street, they wanted the whole thing for themselves, believing that the lack of shopping for non-Indians would drive existing residents out of the neighborhood, and the ready availability of Indian goods would attract Indians to the area, thus producing an Indian-majority ward that would serve as the base for Indian businesses and investors to acquire political power in Chicago. The Indian merchants have shown time and time again that their interests are not the same as the neighborhood’s, and that they are more than willing to ignore the rights of nearby residents. This behavior is always wrong, and no amount of ethnic pride can make it right.

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    • Yes, I want economic development. Among the problems created by relying on tourists instead of serving the neighborhood market (more than 95% of the area is non-Indian) include: (1) neighborhood residents mus spend their money in some other area, thus further depressing economic development in the 50th Ward; (2) traffic jams are so horrible on Devon that drivers use the nearby east-west alleys and north-south streets to avoid Devon, thus putting a heavy burden on residential areas; most of the out-of-towners come to buy groceries only, and park in bus lanes, crosswalks, and even on the sidewalks while waiting for family members in the grocery stores, and absolutely refuse to move their vehicles even for handicapped passengers attempting to board or exit buses, thus forcing bus passengers to exit in the middle of the street; shoppers have no connection to the neighborhood and thus don’t feel obliged to properly dispose of their trash or return shopping carts to stores, leaving them instead on residential property and in alleys; Indian festivals and other events are held without proper City permits and without notifying residents, in full violation of City law. I’ve said before that the first Indian store that opened in 1973 was welcomed; the street was at that time advertised as “The International Marketplace.” Today it holds only Indian businesses, because the Indian merchants did not want to be part of the community, they wanted to CHANGE the community to majority-Indian. They figured that once residents could no longer shop on the neighborhood’s main street they would move and be replaced by Indian residents. In other words, they don’t care about the existing community at all. This is wrong, and no amount of ethnic pride can excuse it.

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  4. I am sorry but I HAVE shopped the stores on Devon and most times they are just as dirty inside as they are on the outside so NO I do not feel lucky to have them because they do not take pride in their business to begin with, I own a store and make every effort to convey a clean and inviting shopable environment. I love Indian food but I would never eat at one of the restaurants on Devon for the same reason. I actually love Khyber Pass in Downtown Oak Park because he has a wonderful clean establishment and I really like talking with the owner. Also unless I am buying vegetable or fruit there is nothing on Devon that I could possibly buy, kids clothing, shoes, supplies, etc.I even ate at F3 and the owners treated us great and gave us wonderful service but they have since closed. I love Libanais and go there as much as possible but other than that I cant walk to anything and shop in this area so after 52 years of living here I do know fist hand. Just this morning driving my son to school the amount of trash in the street floored me but did not surprise me. On top of that a neighbor discarded their huge plastic baby toy on their lawn instead of walking it to the dumspters 15 feet away and there it has sat for a week now. SMH!

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  5. Lara, It\s true that small businesses have been hit hard by the economic crisis and the ongoing difficult recovery. However, other neighborhoods have done quite well in attracting new businesses. Both Edgewater and Rogers Park are doing much better in this respect than West Ridge. I don’t agree that the big box stores in Lincolnwood are the reason for the closure of small businesses in West Ridge. I think the relentless promotion of the area as Little India is a major factor in keeping shoppers away. If you don’t wear saris or eat Indian food, why come? According to a 2003 SAAPRI report, in 1973 Devon’s business district brought in $373M in sales; a 2016 story in one of the local Indian newspapers put total revenue at $130M. That’s a hefty drop and I think it’s a result of the narrow appeal of the offerings on Devon. We aren’t “lucky” to have businesses that don’t want to carry merchandise for the majority of the community.

    The South Asian businesses are directed to a customer base that is too small to keep businesses profitable, which is the main reason for all the turnover on Devon. South Asians are only about 15% of the neighborhood. It’s foolish for an area’s main shopping district to turn its back on 85% of its customer base. West Ridge actually has a relatively well-off population, but residents must leave the neighborhood to spend their money. When was the last time you saw promotional or sales advertising for Lincoln Village? or Western?

    MAGA baloney? This has nothing to do with national politics. The good old days when the neighborhood was all white? Why make this a racial issue? The plain simple fact is that (to paraphrase Jesse Jackson) the Devon stores carry merchandise most residents don’t want to buy. I’ve been tracking store closings and openings on Devon since 2014. The Indian property owners do not rent to non-Indian businesses. That’s just a fact. I’ve seen buildings and storefronts vacant for months and years, until an Indian business opens. We can’t add to the mix unless everybody has an equal chance. I believe in supporting local businesses. It’s up to them to know the market. Shoppers can’t buy what’s not there. A business district can’t thrive if it ignores 85% of its immediate market.

    Finally, we need an alderman committed to economic development. There has to be a master plan for each shopping district. Devon currently has more than 50 grocery stores in 24 blocks. Most are barely scraping by. The big places make money, nobody else. An alderman committed to helping small businesses open and stay open would make a world of difference. Joe Moore promotes small businesses in Rogers Park through his Follow Me Fridays, where he visits local restaurants and new stores, and he announces and promotes them via communications from his office. Our alderman has never done that. The alderman is supposed to be a cheerleader for the community. She can tap into City funding and small business promotion, but she doesn’t. She promised in 2011 that she would present “a spirited economic development plan” for Devon, Western, Touhy, and California. It’s been eight years–where is it?

    I agree with you on an arts center. The old library could be repurposed, or the building you mention. But the community has to be involved in the decision. Stripping the south end of the ward of its only cultural asset (the library) may prove to be a mistake. While it makes sense to have a cultural arts center nearby, it may be a good idea to locate it in the old library building, assuming that it is structurally sound.

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