When we re-started the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park a few years ago, we had plans. We were fortunate to receive guidance from many national consultants, including former Chicago housing commissioner Michael Schubert, who gave us advice on how to change the perception of a neighborhood that appeared to be declining if all one did was to drive down Devon and Touhy west of California and look at empty commercial properties, without factoring in the growing residential and institutional investments being made on a daily basis.
Beyond thoughts on programs that could be organized and collaborations that could be developed, we also worked with a masters level program at UIC that gave us an in-depth study and proposed visions for the neighborhood. But those were all just plans.
This week, I drove past the corner of Devon and McCormick and saw the beautiful "Bernard Stone Park" and the ongoing renovation of the abandoned movie theater. I then turned down Kedzie and noticed the signs from the Chicago Park District indicating the improvement of "Park 538" and the ongoing work there. I made a right turn down Pratt and stopped to visit Magenta, the two new businesses that opened almost two years ago and now occupy 3 storefronts. And lastly, I took a peek at the corner of Pratt and Western, where just days ago I joined members of the LEARN WRP coalition and Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the groundbreaking of a new library branch. In each of these spots, I know that our organization played a role in making this happen!
My family is remembering my bubby's 4th yahrtzeit this week. Every time we spent time together, my father shared memories of his walks with his mother down Devon Avenue from their apartment on Devon and Kedzie and the way things were. We did not set out to change West Rogers Park, we set out to preserve the neighborhood. If we were to create a "before" and "after" photo montage of West Rogers Park, I would be quite proud to show Bubby how we have taken plans and turned them into a reality for future generations.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the process.