As we enter 2019, I would like to thank you for your partnership over this past year in continuing to improve our ward. It is because of your continued investment and care for our communities that we have been able to achieve as much as we did in 2018.
This year we saw continued investment in our neighborhoods, from private businesses opening their doors to the $25 million renovation to the Jefferson Park Transit Center to a new annex at Prussing Elementary. I am grateful for the residents of the 45th Ward who care deeply about their neighborhoods and continue to partner with my office to find ways to improve our communities.
I look forward to that continued collaboration and partnership in 2019. We have certainly come a long way in just a short year.
Since first taking office in 2011, I have made economic development a priority. In 2018, the 45th Ward welcomed an impressive number of new businesses to the area, with more on the way in the new year. Just this year, we welcomed the following businesses to the area:
- Eris Brewery and Cider House, 4240 W. Irving Park
- Little Lulu’s Italian Ice, 5035 W. Montrose
- SoundBite Coffee, 4255 N. Knox
- Wildlight Yoga, 4140 N. Milwaukee
- Lucky Charm Cafe, 3600 W. Irving Park
- Concordia Place, 3696 N. Milwaukee
- The Art House, 4910 W/ Irving Park
- VG Insurance Solutions, 5324 W. Lawrence
- Love My Lucky Dress, 4962 N. Milwaukee
- Connect Gallery Chicago, 4968 N. Milwaukee
- Beauty Crew, 4048 N. Milwaukee
- The Beauty Crew Academy, 4217 N. Milwaukee
- Audia Studios, 4041 N. Milwaukee
- Home Line Decoration, 4358 N. Cicero
- Fearless Cooking Pop-Up, 4501 N. Milwaukee
- Omega Yeast, 4739 W. Montrose
- The Gift Theatre expansion, 4802 N. Milwaukee
- Casa De Luna Mexican Grill, 5481 N. Northwest Highway
- Tata’s Tacos, 4929 W. Irving Park
- Culver’s, 4939 W. Irving Park
- Frunchroom, 4042 N. Milwaukee
- Fischman’s Public House, 4058 N. Milwaukee
- Finom Coffee, 4200 W. Irving Park
- Nick Cave Art Studio, 3618-3622 N. Milwaukee
- B Side Burger, 3734 W. Irving Park
- Starbucks, 4155 N. Cicero
- Starbucs, 5601 W. Lawrence
With the impressive list of businesses that opened their doors and expanded to the ward in just the past year, I am very excited to see what awaits the 45th Ward in 2019 and beyond. There is much more in the pipeline for the new year, from the planned Lake Effect Brewery taproom to the Sears redevelopment, that will continue to build off this moment and continue to make the 45th Ward a destination for residents and visitors alike.
We saw continued investment and growth in our schools in 2018, growing the pride residents take in their neighborhood schools.
My office worked closely with Chicago Public Schools and the Mayor’s office to bring over $35 million worth of improvements to our schools this year. Prussing Elementary, 4650 N. Menard, broke ground on a new annex space this year to address the overcrowding they experienced in recent years. Construction is nearing its end, with doors anticipated to open early next year. Along with the new annex, Prussing is slated to receive a new turf field as a part of the improvements to the school.
Farnsworth Elementary, 5414 N. Linder, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony this month on a new turf field and playground. The funds for these projects came from the aldermanic discretionary budget, the Elston/Armstrong TIF district, and a grant from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
In the spring, Beaubien’s class of 2018 marked their legacy by presenting the school with a class gift of a beautiful engraved bench and tree. My office partnered with the school and parents to provide tools and joined the students to help plant the tree and install the bench. It was a bittersweet day of giving back to a community that helped prepare the students for the next chapter in their academic studies.
This year, the Department of Transportation installed a bump-out at Bryn Mawr and Austin to help students more safely cross the street to get to Hitch Elementary School, 5625 N. McVicker. The funding for the bump-out was awarded by the Cook County Department of Transportation after my office applied for a grant. My office partnered with the Chicago Department of Transportation to prioritize the installation of the bump-out.
Crews broke ground on the new athletic field at Schurz High School, 3601 N. Milwaukee. The scope of work includes a new soccer field, a softball field, a water fountain, and a running track. These amenities will be open to the community when not being used by the school. This athletic field will allow students to feel a sense of pride in their school and will help Schurz continue to be done of the best neighborhood high schools in the city.
In addition to the new athletic field at Schurz, we continue to see impressive growth with the academic programming the school has to offer. Schurz was selected again this year to host the 7th annual Chicago’s Northside Makers’ Fair, which draws interests from technophiles, inventors, artists, musicians, scientists, and more across the country.
Schurz also partnered with Vaughn High School and the Chicago Department of Aviation to host a career fair this year, expanding the ways in which the school prepares its students for success after they graduate.
With its STEM Grow Food Lab, the International Baccalaureate program, the Junior ROTC program, the AVID college readiness program, their Honors program, and the Career and Technical Education program, Schurz continues to make great strides in becoming one of the city’s top schools.
The 45th Ward continues to see private and public investment in the ward, building on the foundation we have laid for continued success in our revitalization efforts.
This year, crews broke ground on the new Independence Branch Library and senior housing at 4022 N. Elston. The Chicago Housing Authority and Evergreen Realty Group have begun accepting applications to lease units, with occupancy expected in the spring of next year. The unique collaboration between the Chicago Housing Authority and the Chicago Public Library allowed for the building of the new library after smoke damage from an adjacent fire closed the former branch. The new library will offer residents with a community space and updated technology, creating an exceptional public resource for the ward.
The Jefferson Park Branch Library is due for a $1.5 million facelift. This year, my office secured $1.675 million from the Jefferson Park TIF district for the improvements after working closely with Chicago Public Library and the Department of Fleet and Facility Management to identify how we can modernize and improve the space. The library will close for a period of time in 2019 to complete the improvements, which include new flooring, a new electrical system, a new teen area, and improvements to the kids’ area, lighting, ceilings, the outdoor plaza area, the structural integrity of the building, and more.
This year, crews broke ground on the new four-story mixed-use building located at 5201 W. Lawrence. The lot was previously vacant for 15 years. Construction is still underway, with an anticipated completion date in the new year. The new development will transform the impression of the Jefferson Park neighborhood as people enter from the east. This development is an important step into injecting new life into downtown Jefferson Park.
Lake Effect Brewery announced their plans to expand to one of the oldest remaining firehouse buildings in the city at Ainslie and Lipps. The new development would include three stories of residential units above a new tasting room. The expansion of a local business, which has been a fixture of the ward since 2011, demonstrates the economic growth and vitality the ward has seen in just a short few years.
This year, crews broke ground on a $25 million renovation to the Jefferson Park Transit Center, which serves the CTA Blue Line and 11 busses. The transit center is the second busiest outside the Loop. The modernization of this tremendous public asset creates a center that is safer, brighter, cleaner, more comfortable, and easier to navigate. Work should be completed by mid-2019.
In June, Ryan Companies in partnership with Clark Street Development unveiled updated plans for The Point at Six Corners. Aldi’s remains committed as the anchor tenant at Milwaukee and Kilpatrick. The updated plans include 50,000 square feet of ground-floor retail along Milwaukee Avenue and Irving Park, a second level of parking, 8-stories of senior living, two public plazas along Milwaukee, and a pedestrian connection between Milwaukee and Irving Park. The plans are slated to appear before the Plan Commission and Zoning Committee in early 2019, with an anticipated groundbreaking date of summer of 2019.
In November, my office partnered with Tucker Developments to host a community planning session for the Sears at Six Corners after the retailer closed its doors in July. While the closing of Sears marks the end, it presents a unique opportunity to reimagine that space and how it interacts with the rest of Six Corners.
More than 120 community members attended the meeting to share their ideas on the future of this cornerstone location. The ideas generated from the meeting included how to address density, parking, walkability, placemaking, the environment, and housing. Tucker Development remarked that the meeting was an invaluable experience for them and will help inform them as they finalize plans to ensure that the community’s input is reflected in the future of the site.
In November, Loukas Development unveiled plans for the vacant lot at 4900 N. Milwaukee. The site, which is directly across from the Jefferson Park Transit Center, includes plans for ground-floor retail, three-floors of apartments, and an owner-occupied penthouse set back from the street. The builder is the same developer who successfully rehabbed the building at 4872 N. Milwaukee, which is home to Weston’s Coffee & Tap and opened in 2017. The modern facade of this building directly across from the transit center will positively impact the impression residents, visitors, and investors have of downtown Jefferson Park.
Just this month, the Plan Commission unanimously approved the Jefferson Park Master Plan. The plan was the result of more than a year’s worth of collaboration from various community stakeholders, including the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association, the Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association, the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce, the Gladstone Park Chamber of Commerce, Jefferson Park Forward, and Northwest Side Unite. The final plan includes a roadmap for continuing the revitalization of the area around the Jefferson Park Transit Center; including creating community gathering spaces, redeveloping vacant land, and creating a more walkable business corridor.
This year, I introduced additional legislation to make Chicago a more transparent, accountable, equitable and fair city.
My office, in partnership with the Alderman Pawar, Alderman O’Connor, Alderman Ramirez-Roza, Arise Chicago, and SEIU, spearheaded the implementation of an Office of Labor Standards. This office will help protect workers by enforcing the minimum wage ordinance, anti-wage theft laws, and the paid sick leave ordinance I helped spearhead in 2016. The OLS will also conduct community outreach to educate employers and employees about workplace laws. The outreach efforts will be funded in part with money collected from violations. The new OLS strengthens the effectiveness of the policies my office and City Council have enacted in recent years to protect Chicagoans and improve their working conditions.
I also continued to work with organizations representing businesses and workers to create the Fair Workweek Ordinance. The Office of Labor Standards would also be tasked with enforcing the legislation, of which I’m a co-sponsor. The ordinance would provide hourly and part-time workers more predictability, stability, and security in their work schedules. The Fair Workweek Ordinance recognizes and addresses the realities of workers that are juggling multiple jobs while balancing their home lives.
I remain committed to pressuring the state and next mayor to do right by Chicagoans and enact an elected school board. With two CEOs resigning their positions due to malfeasance under the Emanuel administration, the mishandling of special education funds, and the pervasive cover-ups of sexual abuse in our schools, it is clear that we need to create more oversight and transparency to protect our children and ensure they receive the education they deserve.
In December, I introduced an ordinance that would strip the Finance Committee and Chairman Ed Burke from overseeing the $100 million workers’ compensation program. The legislation would allow for more transparency, oversight, and efficiency in how these taxpayer dollars are allocated, and it would bring Chicago in line with best practices around the country. The Finance Committee currently exempt from the Office of the Inspector General oversight. In 2016, I similarly pushed to expand the Inspector General’s investigative jurisdiction to include the Finance Committee and other committees of the City Council.
I’m pleased to announce that in 2018, we saw an additional influx of police officers at the 16th District. This overdue increase was the result of years-long advocacy for additional resources in the largest geographically sprawling district. In 2018, the district ushered in over 60 new officers, increasing the total number of officers at the 16th District to 263. This is up from about 197 officers from just a few years ago. I would like to thank Alderman Reboyras, Villegas, Sposasto, Santiago, Taliaferro, and Napolitano for their partnership in advocating for the additional officers. I am committed to continuing to push for additional resources our first responders and residents deserve.
In November, the 16th District Police station welcomed Commander Biggane to replace Commander Looney as he enters retirement. Before joining the 16th District, Commander Biggane held the position of Lieutenant in the Office of the 1st Deputy. She has served on the Chicago Police Department since 1992 with positions in the Bureau of Organized Crime, the Office of Communications, the Office of the Superintendent, the Detective Division, and on the 12th, 21st, and 9th Districts. While Commander Looney will be missed, Commander Biggane has shown that she has the same drive and dedication to fill his shoes.
In November, the 17th District Police Station also welcomed Commander Pontecore. Commander Pontecore replaced Commander Moss, who was selected to serve as the next Executive Office of Area Central. Commander Pontecore was most recently the Commander of the 8th District and has served in the Chicago Police Department for 27 years. He has held various positions including Captain in the Inspections Division, Captain at the 25th District, Lieutenant in the 17th District, a member of the Gang Team, and held positions in the 25th, 15th, and 10th Districts. He has a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Lewis University and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from DePaul University. His education and experience distinguish him as a leader who will work hard to serve and protect residents in the district.
2018 was a big year for infrastructure in the 45th Ward. Over the year, we resurfaced more than 20 blocks of streets. Over 15 blocks of water and sewer mains were replaced as well. Finally, my office allocated $300,000 from the annual aldermanic discretionary budget to replace sidewalks and curbs throughout the ward. These improvements help improve the walkability and safety for pedestrians accessing our streets, as well as help stormwater properly drain. Finally, my office walkability by installing bump-outs on Milwaukee at Giddings, Cuyler and Warner.
This year, the ward saw the highest participatory voter turnout since first introducing the 45th Ward to the process in 2012. This community-driven process allows residents to determine how they would like to spend the annual $1 million aldermanic menu budget. Participatory budgeting is a tool that taps into the knowledge in our community. The voter turnout is a reflection of, not only the growing popularity of the process, but how committed our neighbors are to improving their community. This year, ward residents voted to approve community gardens, a dog-friendly area at Austin-Foster Park, colored LED lights under the Milwaukee UP viaduct, sidewalk repairs, and street resurfacing. I look forward to continuing this community-driven process in the new year.
As you can see, we made tremendous progress in just a year. I look forward to continuing to work with you in 2019 and the years to come on accomplishing even more. Thank you for your partnership, collaboration, and suggestions. It’s because of you that the 45th Ward is such a great community to live in.
Happy New Year.