This past Monday night at a meeting called by Alderman Debra Silverstein to gauge residents' support of a proposal to address the blighted site at the southeast corner of Devon and McCormick, the community won.
For a decade, the dilapidated movie theater & car wash and barricaded parking lot at this corner has been a magnet for crime and a symbol of neighborhood decline. Even though WRP is still a vital area, with the construction of new institutions, new and renovated homes, and an improved infrastructure on Devon, the negative image conveyed by this blighted corner on our western doorstep has detracted from efforts to market our commercial strip and has suppressed nearby property values.
Over the years there have been many proposals to develop this site commercially and organizationally, with all of them failing to be realized due to an onerous State mandated formula for valuation of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) controlled parking lot. At long last, a proposal to demolish the car wash and reuse the theater for an attractive storage facility that does not require use of the parking lot has emerged. In addition, David St Pierre, MWRD Executive Director confirmed the willingness of MWRD to convert the parking lot into a park, an offer he first made at a JCCWRP meeting called to build support for the development proposal, the culmination of a year of attention devoted by JCCWRP to this communal problem. Representatives of the Chicago Park District were brought to the planning table by Alderman Silverstein, and they have agreed to help to plan and maintain the park. Alderman Silverstein who led the meeting attended by well over 200 individuals, presented these two elements as a "package deal" for which she asked for community input. Those in attendance supported the plan overwhelmingly.
Alderman Silverstein is the driving force behind the "streetscape" upgrade of Devon Ave that is now being implemented. Converting this corner into a community asset will leverage the benefits derived from the street improvements, and should open the door to further progress in the enhancement of existing storefronts and the attraction of new businesses. JCCWRP is committed to working with the Alderman, other officials and like-minded residents and businesses to take this next step forward on Devon Ave and beyond.
JCCWRP applauds the leadership that Alderman Silverstein brought to the table during the planning stage and at the April 20 meeting. Without her support, this solution would never have been realized. We look forward to her facilitating the next steps for the redevelopment of this site.