'Road diet' would reshape Chicago Avenue

East Village Association membership meeting
Feb. 5, 2018
Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott Ave.

Chicago Avenue would be trimmed to three motor-vehicle lanes in a "road diet" proposed by the West Town Chamber of Commerce.

Program manager Kace Wakem told East Village Association members Feb. 5 that the Chicago Department of Transportation and Chicago Transit Authority are studying the proposal, part of the West Town Master Plan produced in 2017. CDOT has identified Chicago Avenue east of Paulina Street as a "high-crash corridor" in its Vision Zero safety plan, while the CTA is tracking performance of the #66 bus route.

The plan would reduce the two center lanes to a single left-turn lane. Bike lanes would be added in either direction. Chicago Avenue was identified in the city's 2012 plan to create crosstown bike routes.

Grants for tree planting, considered in meeting a sustainability goal, would require volunteers to plant and care for trees. Other master plan objectives are preservation and business and arts development.

Candidates Quigley, Mustafa, Pattison speak to EVA members

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (40:18) speaks to East Village Association, Jan. 8 at the Happy Village. Other speakers included Sameena Mustafa (0:54) Mike Skoulsky (14:13) and Alyx Pattison (23:51).

East Village Association membership meeting
Jan. 8, 2018
Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott Ave.

Three candidates in the March 20 primary election answered questions from EVA members Jan. 8, and the builder renovating St. Boniface Church as condos gave a progress report.

Sameena Mustafa gave a critique of incumbent Rep. Mike Quigley. Although Mustafa agrees with the Democrat on many issues, Quigley voted to increase military spending and accepts PAC donations from from companies like Caterpillar that support fracking.

Developer Mike Skoulsky is awaiting city review of a redevelopment agreement. St. Boniface church at 1358 W. Chestnut St. to 17 condos. A new building next door would have 24 condos. All would be 2- and 3-bedroom units. The former rectory lot will become a two-story building for Northwestern Settlement with office space and affordable housing.

Alyx Pattinson, a candidate for 4th District Illinois state representative, noted that four women were running for the job. (Iris Millan and Anne Shaw spoke at previous meetings; Delia Ramirez is pending.) Pattison sees fully funding schools and supporting high-school vocational education as top priorities.

Quigley serves on the intelligence committee and wants to maintain the House Russia probe's high profile. He cited Russian election interference dating to the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon race, and argued that all U.S. voting machines are vulnerable to hacking. Quigley fears it will get much worse in Washington before it gets better. "When this is all over," he said, "we're going to have to remember there is more that unites us than divides us."

EVA president Michael VanDam gave a development update on the 1300 block of West Walton Street. Noah Properties plans to build 8 6-flat buildings, as opposed to a denser development proposed by another developer last year. Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. says rezoning to accommodate the project will go forward.

Upcoming issues include another bid to purchase the Happy Village tavern at 1059 N. Wolcott and downzoning of the Tropikava Kafe building at 1115 N. Hermitage. Also, meetings for three CAPS beats are consolidated at the Goldblatt's building, 1615 W. Chicago Ave.

Next phase for St. Boniface

Redevelopment of the St. Boniface Church grounds is proceeding with a new partner: Stas Development is working with Northwest Settlement on a new mixed-use building for the former rectory site at 921 N. Noble St., replacing the Chicago Academy of Music.

Builder Mike Skoulsky will give an update at Monday's East Village Association meeting. Skoulsky plans to convert the church at 1358 W. Chestnut St. to 17 residential units and build 24 units at the former school and convent site, 1340 W. Chestnut St. Saint Boniface Info has been posting news on discussions with neighbors.

East Village 2017 in review: Updates on top stories

Work continues on an apartment conversion at 1038 N. Ashland Ave.

West Town residents come here to learn about the East Village Association, read its Planning, Preservation & Development guidelines, check the Chicago crime map or renew their membership.

In addition, EVA news posts throughout the year reflect community interest in development, public safety and other issues. Most-read posts of 2017 suggest what has attracted neighbors' interest. Here are the top posts with updates on where things stand:

  1. Restaurant plan shakes Damen neighbors: Plans for a burger bar at 820 N. Damen Ave., now an auto mechanic's garage, have not progressed since an August hearing. Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) proposed and the City Council approved a moratorium on new tavern and packaged-goods licenses along Damen Avenue, from Chicago Avenue to Augusta Boulevard. Restaurants are not affected. The license freeze also covers Chicago Avenue from Leavitt Street to Damen.
  2. Foxtrot Market scouts Division Street site, seeks end to packaged goods moratorium: Division Street's longstanding package-goods moratorium ended in a City Council action sponsored by Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st Ward). The Foxtrot delivery service now plans to open a store at 1722 W. Division St.
  3. Apartments will rehab Ashland office building: Work is under way to covert the MIS Computer Corp. office building at 1038 N. Ashland Ave. to 18 apartments and a property management office.
  4. EVA joins in Noble-Walton objections: Plans have re-emerged for apartments on the north side of Walton Street. A community meeting is scheduled for 6pm Jan. 3 at Northwestern Settlement House, 1012 N. Noble St.
  5. EVA seeks Moreno support for Wells language academy: Chicago Public Schools rejected a plan for a citywide college preparatory program in foreign languages at Wells Community Academy High School, 936 N. Ashland Ave.

Chicago police investigate Wood Street satellite: Moreno

East Village Association membership meeting
Dec. 4, 2017
Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott Ave.

Ald. Proco Joe Moreno expects a Chicago police satellite presence in East Village in the next few months.

The 1st Ward alderman told EVA members Dec. 4 that Cmdr. Eddie Johnson during November budget hearings pledged to set a timeline at yearend for using vacant space in the former 13th District station at 937 N. Wood St. The building now houses the Cook County Sheriff's central warrant unit.

Moreno saw positive signs in the appointment of Stephen C. Chung as 12th District commander and addition of 12 new officers in 2017. He admitted that staffing remains below 2015 levels, and suggested that business districts in the ward should consider hiring private security.

Noting that new ballfields were nearly complete at Wells and Clemente, Moreno said he hoped that within five years neighborhood parents would appreciate having the high schools as default choices for incoming freshmen. And with a Chicago Tribune transportation reporter on hand, Moreno also promoted his idea to raise CTA fares at suburban stations.

Nelson Algren's gold-star East Village

Nelson Algren poses at a viaduct (Library of Congress)

A fountain at a major intersection quotes his writing. A community garden is named for one of his characters, played by Frank Sinatra. But what do you really know about Nelson Algren in East Village?

Chicago Tribune transportation writer Mary Wisniewski is here to help. She visits the East Village Association on Monday to tell the tale of Algren's days and nights on Division Street. Wisniewski's biography Algren: A Life, published by Chicago Review Press, is a fine Christmas gift for East Village neighbors and friends who drop by to visit Algren's Gold Star barstool.

As usual, we'll meet in a tavern, The Happy Village at 1059 N. Wolcott. The program starts at 7. The agenda includes Ald. Proco Joe Moreno on the State of the 1st Ward, Bridgette Flagg of Soule Restaurant, 1931 W. Chicago Ave., and an update on development at the Polish Triangle, where Algren's quote appears (“For the masses who do the city’s labor also keep the city’s heart”).

East Village was Algren's 1930s haunt as a struggling writer. "Algren had a fine ear for the nuances of Chicago Polonia dialect," says the New York Times review of Wisniewski's book.

The working-class Polonia that gave way to East Village was raw material for Algren short stories and novels such as Never Come Morning, which brought on a feud with the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America.

The Sinatra vehicle The Man With the Golden Arm inspired a sunnier response: EVA organized the Frankie Machine Garden at 1800 W. Haddon St., which next year celebrates its 30th anniversary.