WEST RIDGE — City officials gathered Wednesday to officially dedicate a West Ridge parking lot-turned-green space to former Ald. Bernard “Berny” Stone, calling it a “special” place that will welcome visitors to Chicago.
“All the parks in the 50th Ward are beautiful, but I feel that this one is special because it is what is seen first at the gateway to our 50th Ward, and to the wonderful city of Chicago,” said 50th Ward Ald. Debra Silverstein during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, alongside Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Park District Supt. Mike Kelly.
It was a “very exciting day” for the long-awaited project to come to fruition, Silverstein said, adding it was “wonderful for the community and has transformed an old crumbling lot into beautiful green space.”
The area, which consists of fitness stations, benches, landscaping and soon a new sculpture, now connects a walking and bike path on the North Shore channel from Lawrence Avenue in Albany Park to Green Bay Road in Evanston.
Emanuel said the park and its use as a crucial link to Chicago’s smaller waterways was a big step in the city’s larger goal of “Building on Burnham” and bolstering its parks.
“To take our river and make it part of our recreational park system, this investment, this ribbon-cutting today, is the first true installation of that effort,” the mayor said. “[It] makes us truly a two-waterfront city.”
The park is owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and leased by the Park District.
Last year, the City Council approved using tax increment financing to fund a restoration of the land, which hugs the North Shore Channel between Lincoln and Kedzie avenues and Devon Avenue and McCormick Road on the border of North Park and West Ridge near suburban Lincolnwood.
The park sits just north of the Lincoln Village shopping center, where Stone had a ward office during a chunk of his 38 years serving the Far North Side. He was unseated by Silverstein in 2011 and died at the age of 87 in 2014.
Stone’s family was present at Wednesday’s ceremony, and Silverstein called the park a “fitting tribute to [Stone’s] decades of service.”
Scott "Shalom" Klein, an Orthodox Jew and the executive director of the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park, said the video has occupied little, if any conversation among members of that neighborhood’s Orthodox community. Instead, he said, residents wish the mayor would pay more attention to their neighborhood. During discussions over Sabbath dinners or while walking down Touhy or Devon Avenues, he said, “I hear conversations about the library that needs to be improved and the park that needs improvement. The video does not come up.”
“Let’s slow the traffic down”, “This block needs more parking”, “Increased signage will attract new business”, and “Changing a zoning code is the solution”, are all pieces of feedback that those of us trying to attract business to the Chicago-land area hear on a regular basis.
My opinion – every area has a very different “personality” and attracts a different type of business that may be looking to call Chicago or its surrounding suburbs “home” as it
relocates. Having grown up in Skokie, and then thrown myself into developing a small business, and working closely with elected officials, I’ve discovered how diverse our community really is. While the culture of our residents is fascinating and so inspiring, I am going to focus this post on the business climate.
For a developing business which is interested in a change in scenery, the most intriguing area may be the far northern suburbs of Northbrook, Highland Park, and the higher end residential and shopping districts. For others (and I am personally biased in this direction), they may want to join the re-emerging business districts in Skokie, Lincolnwood, and Evanston. Certainly, a lot of recent NATO attention may attract a relocating entrepreneur to the busy business and shopping districts of the Loop / Chicago led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with it’s new infrastructure investments, and a strong support network in the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. At the far end, we has a diverse south side, home to President Obama, and its many malls, shopping centers, and lower costs of living.
I don’t think that there is any single solution or model we should follow in our focus on economic development. Let’s collect and solicit feedback from the stakeholders, the ones that shop, live, and work in our communities.
I believe that we can come up with the right recipe to attract business and businesses to every area in our community, encompassing all of our business districts. So, if you are thinking of moving your business or considering starting a new enterprise, please consider researching your options. We will find the right spot for you.