New Jefferson Park Forward seeking to create its identity
by BRIAN NADIG
Forming a "welcome wagon" to greet new home owners and sponsoring social events are among the ideas that residents suggested the new community group Jefferson Park Forward should pursue at the group’s Nov. 17 meeting.
"The goal is you get to know your neighbor and let them know that there is a neighborhood organization," Ryan Richter, one of the group’s founders, said. Organizing a pub crawl and sponsoring a community night at the Gift Theater are among the recommended social events, Richter said.
The group is forming committees to investigate creating bylaws and other organizational issues, Richter said. "The goal is to formalize, but we’re just going to take it one meeting at a time," he said. "We got a lot of great ideas from the people who were there."
The group, which will hold its next meeting in January, plans to rotate meeting locations among local businesses. About 60 people attended the group’s first meeting at Fishman Liquors, 4780 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Several organizers of Jefferson Park Forward also are members of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association. Disagreement among association members about the direction of that organization recently led to the first contested election for the group’s president, with Bob Bank defeating Richter.
Richter said that there is room for two neighborhood organizations in Jefferson Park and that the new group will be "a little bit different" from the association. "I’m still a member of the JPNA and still plan to be and will be going to the meetings," Richter said.
The Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association has been at odds on zoning issues with former alderman Patrick Levar and Alderman John Arena (45th). Richter has said that the association’s platform against upzoning lacks the flexibility needed to revitalize the Jefferson Park commercial district.
Richter said that he does not know if Jefferson Park Forward will take stands on development proposals but that "our mission is to be open and pragmatic" and "to stay out of the politics" which can be associated with development and zoning issues.
"Jefferson Park Forward is committed to the revitalization of our community," the group states on its Web site.
"By engaging residents and facilitating participation, Jefferson Park Forward will encourage and support activities to benefit the community through economic and neighborhood development, a pedestrian-friendly downtown area with shopping and cafes, and social and civic events."
Jefferson Park Forward will cosponsor the annual "Holiday Sparkle" event, at the Jefferson Park CTA terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave. The event, which will feature singing, refreshments and the lighting of holiday lights, will be held at 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7.