Category Archives: West Ridge

“Between States” – The Chicago Architecture Foundation Project

Our commercial districts need a makeover, and the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) has some ideas on how to do it! Even better—CAF wants West Ridge residents to be part of this exciting new project!

The results will be showcased at CAF’s second Biennial Exhibit beginning in September. The last such event, in 2015, drew 250,000 visitors to the Chicago Cultural Center, with another 250,000 attending CAF events in other venues throughout the City.

The theme of this year’s Biennial is “Between States,” that is, moving from one state of being to another. Every ward in the City of Chicago will have its own project, its own opportunity to shine. The project for the 50th Ward involves imagining new uses for a local strip mall.

Architect Jay Longo, a resident of our ward and a principal with the firm Solomon, Cordwell,  Buenz, has selected the strip mall located on the northwest corner of Granville and Western for this project.  His vision was informed by two workshops with local residents and business owners, who imagined the mall transformed into housing, a commercial urban garden, and a plaza lush with green space and flowers, perhaps enriched by a mural and a neighborhood marker. The final rendering will reflect the shared dream resulting from active, creative collaboration between a neighborhood architect and members of the West Ridge community.

POWR was selected as the project’s community partner and, together with Jay’s research partner, Cheryl Dahle, CEO of FlipLabs,  coordinated input from 50th Ward residents, input that we believe could be the start of a long-overdue conversation about economic development throughout the 50th Ward, currently home to too many  vacant lots, vacant stores, and vacant buildings. While it’s important to begin the process of revitalizing all of our commercial districts, the project focused on a small part of Western Avenue, a street in search of an identity. Anchored at both its Granville and Howard ends by half-empty strip malls, a street littered with vacancies, empty buildings, and unused lots, Western  presents an opportunity for the community to reflect on and discuss what kind of overall development best serves West Ridge now and into the future, and to plan ways to achieve its collective vision.

Note that no actual building will take place. This project is conceptual only. No businesses will be displaced, nor are there any plans for future displacement. The point of the project is not to solve urban problems, but to demonstrate how good design and good architecture contribute to community life.  The project is meant to stir the imagination, to awaken an awareness of new possibilities, and to create new ways of observing the spaces which we live and work in every day.

Renderings of Jay’s project will be presented at several community meetings to be scheduled in September.  Copies of his rendering will also be on display at several locations throughout the ward, and a copy will be presented to the alderman for her office. The meetings will be open to discussions about the project and the ongoing research into economic development opportunities in the 50th Ward. Resident participation in these discussions is a critical element of planning.

The community meetings will be announced as soon as dates are finalized.

POWR, a community research tool rather than a membership organization, works with  groups and individuals involved in neighborhood improvement.  To ensure that the community outreach for the CAF project included a wide variety of people throughout our neighborhood, POWR enlisted the help of organizations and individuals who became the founding members of the HOPE Committee, a group committed to the long-term goal of working with the community to create sustainable economic development throughout the ward.  Please see the HOPE Committee page for the names of the groups and individuals who together made this project possible.

Residents of West Ridge can look forward to an exciting opportunity to help create the 50th Ward of the future. Stay tuned!





Silverstein’s Pot Problem

You may know that a medical marijuana dispensary has been proposed for 6501 North Western Avenue, next door to Warren Park. The owner says he plans to spend about $400,000 on construction and landscaping for his property, to hire workers from the 50th Ward, particularly veterans and the disabled, and to hire off-duty police officers as security guards. Judging by social media, most residents support having this business in West Ridge. The alderman can’t make up her mind.

First she said she was “unequivocally” opposed. She didn’t give any reason for her opposition. One day later, she amended her position and claimed that, while she supports making medical marijuana available to suffering patients, she didn’t want it near the park because of the “hundreds of children” from 2 to 17 years of age who use park facilities. A couple of days after that, she said that she thought the “intent” of the law that bans such clinics from proximity to schools should also apply to parks.

The alderman also claimed that many residents have contacted her in support of her original position, as well as the one after that, and said that “…it has become my feeling that this is not the proper location….” There was no official word on how many residents contacted her in support of the business.

Even she doesn’t know what her motives are. She keeps tripping over her explanations, backtracking, and confusing herself as well as everybody else.

Did she think that more conservative elements of the neighborhood would rally around her original inflexible position? Does she really believe that the children of the 50th Ward would be corrupted by the sight of patients with valid prescriptions entering a high-security building to buy legal marijuana? Based on the renderings provided by the dispensary’s owner, it’s unlikely the kids would even notice let alone guess what kind of business it is.

Alderman, you heard it here first:

West Ridge is not a drug-free zone. Illicit drugs are sold in streets and alleys all over the ward.

Maybe you should focus on that.