Arena extols attractions in commercial districts
by BRIAN NADIG
While efforts to revitalize the Six Corners and Jefferson Park shopping districts are planned, more attention should be given to promoting existing businesses and cultural attractions in the area, according to Alderman John Arena (45th).
Arena spoke at the Jan. 30 meeting of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association, “We have an amazing story to tell about this community,” he said. “We just haven’t told that story well, and we’re changing that. This is the next great place in the city.”
Arena said that he is working with local chambers of commerce and the city Department of Cultural Affairs to produce a 45th Ward tourism guide that will be available to visitors at O’Hare Airport and in Downtown Chicago.
Arena said that the ease of reaching Jefferson Park from the Loop or O’Hare via the CTA Blue Line makes it convenient for tourists to catch a performance at the Copernicus Cultural and Civic Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave., or the Gift Theater, 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave. He said that other cultural destinations in the ward include the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., and the Filament Theater, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., which will present a play on the heritage of the community later this month.
Arena said that Six Corners has 150 businesses within a two-block radius, with six new restaurants in the construction or permitting phase. He said that one of the restaurants will be operated by the owner of the Portage Restaurant, 3938 N. Central Ave.
Arena said that in Jefferson Park a new delicatessen is opening at 4774 N. Milwaukee Ave, and that Fischman’s Liquors, 4780 N. Milwaukee Ave., recently was named by Chicago Magazine as one of the city’s best craft beer stores.
Also at the meeting, Arena discussed the challenges of redeveloping the 5100 to 5300 blocks of West Lawrence Avenue, which are largely vacant. The only building on the south side of the street is the Sportif Importer bike shop, 5225 W. Lawrence Ave., which the city failed to acquire through condemnation 8 years ago.
Arena said that the presence of the bike shop narrows the footprint of a potential development, that businesses such as a moderate-size grocery store require more space, and that in terms of a residential complex, “the smaller the footprint, taller the building.”
A community garden is planned for one of the empty lots to create an outdoor gathering place in the shopping district. “It’s going to get people out on the street and be social,” Arena said.
Arena also announced that the city Department of Housing and Economic Development has approved a master plan for the revitalization of Six Corners. A copy of the plan, which was made after a series of community workshops, is available at www.thelakotagroup.com/6corners.
Concerns were expressed at the meeting about inconsistent sweeping of side streets during the summer. Arena said that the 45th Ward is larger than most wards, making it difficult to have a regular schedule, and that problem streets should be reported. “We’ll try to get a street sweeper out to a street with a specific need,” he said.