Gardiner discusses 45th ward
by BRIAN NADIG
Alderman James Gardiner (45th) said he is taking a “boots on the ground” approach to gathering feedback from his constituents and to providing ward services.
“If you’ve not seen us at your doorsteps, if you live in the community, you soon will,” Gardiner said at his April 15 state-of-the-ward virtual luncheon. It was co-hosted by the Gladstone Park, Jefferson Park, Portage Park and Polish American chambers of commerce, the Gladstone Park Advisory Council and the Six Corners and Pulaski Elston business associations.
Gardiner said that not all residents are comfortable communicating online and that he has been meeting with many residents on their porches or in their living rooms. “I want to ensure, at least, their voices are being heard,” he said. “During COVID, we’ve had to adapt.”
Gardiner said that he also is meeting via appointments with constituents at his office.
One meeting participant suggested that Gardiner set up virtual “ward nights” in which he could meet individually with residents.
Gardiner also outlined his decision-making process on zoning proposals.
“You have to … engage with community groups, getting feedback,” he said, adding that developers meet with these groups prior to a public meeting. “We are doing that via Zoom right now due to COVID.”
In response to questions about specific projects, Gardiner said that he has no update on the former Fischman Liquors site at 4780 N. Milwaukee Ave., which a developer acquired last year, but that Gracie O’Malley’s pub is moving into the former Fischman Public House at 4058 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Gardiner added that he planned to contact the Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association regarding an update on the former DiLeo’s and bank site at 5700 N. Central Ave., where a half-demolished building has been sitting for months. A developer had proposed constructing a four-story, mixed-use project on the parcel, but residents have expressed density, height and parking concerns about the proposal.
Gardiner said that construction has either begun or soon will on the following large development projects in the ward: Northwestern Medical Group at Kilbourn Avenue and Irving Park Road, Chase Bank at Milwaukee and Austin avenues and Clarendale senior living complex at Irving Park and Milwaukee. “That’s close to $300 million,” he said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen cranes in our community. … You can see (the crane at Six Corners) all the way from Gladstone Park.”
These developments will have a positive ripple effect, Gardiner said. “What happens on one side of the ward affects the other,” he said.
Gardiner said that as alderman one of his top accomplishments has been addressing the needs of seniors, whether making sure the sidewalks around their homes are cleared of snow or helping them get vaccinated. Gardiner’s office recently partnered with Oak Street Health, 4848 W. Irving Park Road, in hosting a vaccination event for local seniors.
“Getting out there and getting boots on the ground. I enjoy that a lot. I will continue to be a huge advocate for our seniors,” Gardiner said.
Also speaking at the meeting was city Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection commissioner Rosa Escareno. She said that despite the struggles created by the pandemic, “our small businesses have really risen to the occasion.”
Overall only “a small number” of social distancing violations have been issued to businesses, Escareno said. “We have to make sure we are leveling the playing field,” she said.