New Gladstone Park group sets goals, discuss vacant lots on Milwaukee
by BRIAN NADIG
Helping to recruit new businesses and promoting the area’s existing stores should be among the goals of the newly formed Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association, according to several residents at the group’s Sept. 29 meeting.
A local couple told the group that they support those goals but recently decided not to open a business in the area because an increase in vacant lots in the 5300 block of North Milwaukee Avenue is creating an atmosphere not conducive for commerce. They said that the business district has become stagnant because some owners are “sitting” on their commercial property as they wait for the area’s redevelopment to unfold.
The new owner of the former Gateway Chevrolet property at 5371-73 N. Milwaukee Ave., has been buying additional properties on the block for a possible new dealership. Marino Chrysler Jeep Dodge, whose main showroom is at 5133 W. Irving Park Road, has been using the site for vehicle storage for the past year.
Four buildings on the block were demolished earlier this year, and last week the former Gateway showroom was torn down. In addition, a permit is being sought to demolish a building at 5391 N. Milwaukee Ave., where Frederick’s Coiffures recently closed after 52 years in business.
Several residents raised concerns about whether the sidewalk in front of the vacant lots would be shoveled this winter. A woman said that last winter the snow was not properly shoveled until after she contacted Marino’s customer service department and Alderman John Arena’s office.
No plans for a dealership have been submitted to the alderman’s office, but some of the parcels recently acquired by Marino would require a zoning change to allow for auto sales, according to an Arena aide.
Group organizer Joe DiCiaula said that one of the benefits of having a neighborhood association is that it should give residents a stronger voice when attempts are being made to address problems. He said that calling on behalf of an organization may resonate more with an elected official than calling on behalf of oneself.
Also at the meeting, resident Michelle Kerr reported that volunteers recently planted more than 200 perennials on Milwaukee between Mason Avenue and Moody Avenue. The group is planning to promote via social media those businesses which agreed to water the flowers, and some residents suggested that a community garden be started.
The organization is looking to hold monthly meetings with guest speakers and if “there is enough traction in six months,” the group will start to formalize itself by registering as a nonprofit organization in the state and collecting membership dues, DiCiaula said.
Recommendations also were made that the association hold a community festival to help better promote the name “Gladstone Park” given that it is not one of the 77 community areas that the City of Chicago lists on its Web site, which has the Gladstone area under Jefferson Park and Norwood Park. The association is looking into adopting the following membership boundaries: the Kennedy Expressway on the south, Central Avenue on the east, the Chicago River/Devon Avenue on the north and Nagle Avenue on the west.