Chicago Avenue gets Jan. 9 hearing; EVA meeting to follow

A proposal to extend Chicago Avenue pedestrian zoning will be taken up during a 1st Ward hearing at 6:30pm Monday in the Commercial Park fieldhouse, 1845 W. Rice St.

As described on this site, the plan would ban strip-mall parking lots along Chicago Avenue from Wood Street to Damen Avenue, including the vacant lot at 1834-50 W. Chicago Ave. adjoining the park.

To allow more East Village Association members to participate, the group has moved its monthly meeting to the fieldhouse. The meeting will start at 7:30pm or at the conclusion of the 1st Ward hearing.

Chuck Templeton, a founder of the community bulletin board, will walk members through the site's neighbor-to-neighbor features, including a forum for tool sharing and odd jobs. EVA is one of more than 80 Chicago area groups with forums on the site.

CPS shelves LaSalle shift

Chicago Public Schools administrators confirmed in a meeting Monday that magnet admissions at LaSalle Language Academy in Old Town will not be shifted this fall to LaSalle II Magnet School in East Village. Adding pupils at LaSalle II, 1148 N. Honore, likely would have claimed foreign-language classrooms.

"The meeting yesterday was brief and to the point," said LaSalle II Principal Suzanne Velasquez-Sheehy in an e-mail. "There is no room for an expansion at LII given our current facilities. CPS is also aware of LaSalle I's concerns so they have decided to allow LaSalle I to remain a magnet school for the upcoming school year."

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll announced last week that LaSalle's magnet program at 1734 N. Orleans would continue next year while the schools hash out long-term solutions to ease overcrowding at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School, 615 W. Kemper Pl.

When the school district floated a plan to make nearby LaSalle a neighborhood school, more than 500 persons signed an online petition supporting the magnet program.

11-story plan at Pizza Hut site

East Village Association board minutes for Dec. 19, 2011

LaSalle II Magnet School
Before a meeting with Chicago Public Schools administrators, Neal McKnight issued a board statement seeking commitments for 50% of at-large admissions to neighborhood students at LaSalle II, 1148 N. Honore, and for retention of the foreign-language curriculum. The neighborhood quota, negotiated by former Ald. Manny Flores at the school's opening, has yet to be implemented.

Architect Jon Heinert shows designs for 1601 W. Division.

PNC Bank/Pizza Hut site
Four more floors of apartments have been added to plans for the former Pizza Hut property at 1601-15 W. Division St. The 11-story building would rise to 120 feet, compared to 80 feet for the CVS Pharmacy building at 1200 N. Ashland Ave.; rooftop mechanicals for two elevator shafts bring the height to 140 feet.

Wicker Park's Coyote building, the Northwest Tower at 1608 N. Milwaukee Ave., is 12 stories tall; across the Polish Triangle, Noble Square Cooperative at 1165 N. Milwaukee Ave. spans 28 stories. "We feel this site in a way is addressing the Triangle in a more direct way," said developer Rob Buono, noting the contrast with CVS, a former bank building. "We want something iconic."

EVA directors suggested that more window glass and warmer colors would relieve the stark look of staggered gray panels shown in the concept drawings, and would make the apartment tower appear less institutional. Designs will change further as contractors review material choices, Buono noted.

LaSalle II access, school curriculum at risk

Neal McKnight outlined neighbor concerns at LaSalle II language academy in a Dec. 19 letter to 1st Ward Ald. Proco Joe Moreno:

I am the vice president of the East Village Association and I am writing on behalf of the Board of Directors of the East Village Association. We applaud you for taking such a proactive stance in addressing community concerns regarding the proposed increase in enrollment at LaSalle II Magnet School at 1148 N. Honore.

As you know, LaSalle II is squarely within our boundaries and of great concern to our members and the broader community. Many of our members' children are enrolled at LaSalle II. Two of our board members' children also attend LaSalle II. We were recently advised that the Chicago Public Schools is contemplating increasing enrollment at LaSalle II. The East Village Association is concerned with the impact that increasing enrollment will have on the quality of education at LaSalle II.

LaSalle II adds pupils in CPS plan

By Tom Tomek

Chicago Public Schools has proposed adding additional students at LaSalle II Magnet School, 1148 N. Honore, and converting the original LaSalle Magnet School in Old Town to a neighborhood school.

LaSalle II has experienced considerable change in each of its four years. This year, newly consolidated with Andersen Community Academy, LaSalle II seems to have finally started to seek a level of identity with a basic plan for the future.

The new CPS proposal has thrown a large wrench in LaSalle II's gears. The school does not have the faculty or campus to sustain 30 more new students each year for nine years. If the proposed plan is realized, the quality of experience at LII would be severely compromised.

Taller order for Pizza Hut site

The Polish Triangle overlooks the Noble Square Cooperative high-rise at 1165 N. Milwaukee Ave. 

Developers are raising their sights for the former Pizza Hut corner lot at 1601-15 W. Division. Current plans involve an apartment building rising stories higher than the CVS Pharmacy across the street, at the Polish Triangle intersection with Ashland and Milwuakee.

Developer Robert Buono reviews plans with the East Village Association board at 6:30 pm Dec. 19 at Leona’s Restauraunt, 1936 W. Augusta.

What's next for Chicago Bowl site?

A newly vacant lot reveals an old Sinclair Gasoline billboard at 1854 W. Chicago Ave. 

The long-shuttered auto warehouse at 1834-50 W. Chicago Ave. is gone, along with plans to locate a performance space there modeled after the Brooklyn Bowl nightclub in New York. A chain-link fence with concrete footings now surrounds the property.

Two local alderman are advancing a proposal that would keep the vacant lot from becoming a strip mall. Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno (1st Ward) and Scott Waguespack (32nd) propose extending Chicago Avenue's "pedestrian street" designation from Ashland Avenue west to Damen Avenue. It now stops at Wood Street.

How to stop catalytic converter thefts

By Sgt. Juan Clas, Chicago Police

Catalytic converter thefts have been occurring throughout Chicago. Here is why they're being stolen and a few tips on how to help prevent thefts from your vehicle.

Read more »

East Village holiday party: No agenda here

There's no reason to drop in at Bleeding Heart Bakery Cafe tonight except to meet people and have fun. No votes will be taken (well, maybe on Foursquare). The cash bar is lined up, but you work out who's buying the first beer. No builders will make presentations, although if you bring a dish for the potluck something good will develop. If it's not in your budget, just stop in and say hi. Wait till another day for trees to be planted, licenses granted or handbills supplanted. Looking for a public forum? Come chat up your neighbors. We'll start around 6:30 at 1916 W. Chicago. There will be no drive-through. Happy holidays!

I'll give you a topic: Discussion has broken out at following last week's posting about convenience-store liquor sales. It's not all about whether more package goods are a good idea, although the neighboring Wicker Park Committee has a view on where that might lead. At the talk is more about lack of community review, and in a long chain of comments on the MSNBC-affiliated site thoughts are all over the place. It's all good, although at this point comments might best be directed to Ald. Proco Joe Moreno. The old 1st Ward comment page is dead, but the link at left should work. Drop in tonight and talk about whatever you want.

Make Monday a Bleeding Heart holiday

Bleeding Heart Bakery Cafe, 1916 W. Chicago Ave. 

Join your neighbors for Christmas cheer Monday at the annual East Village Association holiday party. This year's event is a potluck dinner in the upstairs mezzanine of Bleeding Heart Bakery Cafe, 1916 W. Chicago Ave. A cash bar will be open from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Liquor at Polish Triangle! Say it ain't so, Joe

CVS Pharmacy, 1200 N. Ashland 

By Neal McKnight

Last month the East Village Association learned that Ald. Proco Joe Moreno introduced and the City Council passed legislation lifting a longstanding packaged liquor moratorium on Ashland Avenue, from Division Street to Blackhawk Street. The sole purpose of this legislation was to grant a liquor license to the national retailer CVS Pharmacy.

This single-purpose legislation was introduced and passed without the input of the community, and calls into question Ald. Moreno’s commitment to transparency and local business.

The East Village Association, the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce and Near North Montessori School all opposed lifting the moratorium. The Wicker Park Committee requested that no action be taken until CVS made a presentation, which never happened.

All of these groups have been working for years to improve the Polish Triangle, and all are concerned that liquor sales will set back their efforts to improve the Division-Ashland-Milwaukee intersection.

Ald. Moreno simply could have told these community groups that he planned to lift the moratorium and grant the license with concessions. Instead, the legislation was introduced and passed without addressing community concerns. Members of the community learned of this decision after the legislation had passed, We found out by walking past CVS and seeing a beer and wine "Coming soon!" sign.

This decision has multiple consequences. First, because Ald. Moreno introduced and the City Council passed this legislation, multiple locations on Ashland Avenue are now available to sell package liquor. This may exacerbate ongoing issues that relate to liquor sales.

The Polish Triangle has had lasting problems with vagrancy, public consumption of alcohol and public intoxication. The problem was so bad that Ald. Moreno just this past year ordered the benches removed from the Polish Triangle. This type of activity impacts both the 13th and 14th police districts. We do not need to create new crime problems or exacerbate an existing problem.

Nelson Algren Fountain at the Polish Triangle

In addition, by lifting the moratorium and granting CVS a liquor license Ald. Moreno will discourage the development of local business.

CVS has more than 7,000 locations around the country and can be a formidable competitor, in the same way Wal-Mart is formidable. This legislation creates a new hurdle to attracting a responsible, independent wine shop to the area. The East Village Association last year attempted to accommodate just such a locally owned liquor store.

EVA explored modifying an existing package liquor moratorium in the empty Washington Mutual space at 1555 W. Division. When the local family that proposed the wine shop learned that CVS was seeking a liquor license, they withdrew the plan. They said would be undercut on price and driven out of business.

EVA tried to reassure the family that a different moratorium in place across the street would keep the gargantuan retailer from getting a liquor license. They obviously had a better handle on the situation, and did not waste time, energy and money in an venture the alderman would undermine. Ald. Moreno has now cemented a national liquor retailer in our community that will effectively exclude a locally owned, locally responsive business.

EVA simply does not understand this decision based upon Ald. Moreno’s previous stances against making zoning changes to accommodate national retailers. This decision is all the more troubling because Division Street and Wicker Park have gained a national recognition as a shopping destination anchored by locally owned and operated businesses.

Ald. Moreno states that “CVS agreed to some restrictions on the type and packaging of beer and liquor that would be sold, and since CVS is a well-regarded corporation,” operating in multiple locations in his ward, he supported the single-purpose legislation. Not so fast. Do you know who you are dealing with?

Another unit of CVS Caremark Corp., sued by the Illinois Attorney General and 27 other attorneys general, in 2008 settled a deceptive practices case for $38.5 million arising out of its marketing of prescription drugs. Just two years later in October 2010, CVS agreed to pay $75 million and forfeit $2.6 million in profits from the sale of products containing pseudophedrine, which is used to make methamphetimine.

At the time it was the largest civil penalty paid under the Controlled Substances Act. CVS admitted that stores did not monitor excessive purchases, and the U.S. Attorney stated that CVS failed to follow its ethical and legal responsibilities. If CVS has difficulty curbing the sale of nasal decongestant, what steps would it take to control the sale of liquor?

Ald. Moreno did not take the time to confer with the local community groups on these issues. Based upon CVS's record and the location of this store, the community at least should have been given the chance to weigh in on control issues. What restrictions did Moreno pursue? How was any agreement documented? How will it be enforced? We still do not know. These questions should have been vetted by the community before the moratorium was lifted.

Decisions have consequences that are not immediately obvious. Community input helps legislators and executives understand the risks. Governing is messy and sometimes disappoints people. In this case, Ald. Moreno's lack of transparency disappointed residents and organizations that are trying to bring lasting, sustainable improvements to the Polish Triangle.

Because Ald. Moreno did not want to share his pro-national retailer decision directly with the community, EVA has a simple suggestion for him to restore confidence: Live up to your stated commitment to transparency and post on your website all of your proposed legislation, including zoning changes, prior to introducing them to the City Council. That way the community can review these changes and head off bad decisions. That way voters will not have to say “Say it ain't so, Joe, say it ain't so.”

Wicker Park Committee on Polish Triangle liquor moratorium

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Alderman Proco Joe Moreno
1st Ward

On behalf of the Board of the Wicker Park Committee, I am obliged to express our extreme disappointment in your decision to suspend the liquor license moratorium for two blocks along Ashland Avenue, thereby allowing the package liquor license for the CVS Pharmacy at Ashland and Division. The Wicker Park Committee, along with neighboring East Village Association (EVA) and the Wicker Park Bucktown (WPB) Chamber of Commerce, has previously stated our opposition to lifting the decades old moratorium. The recent announcement by CVS of... “Beer and Wine Sales Coming Soon”… was a stunning surprise to the community, since there had been no discussions among Ward staff and the community groups that this liquor license application was going forward.

Chicago ward remap: Why not the 1st?

Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) at Oct. 10 police station house rally 

By Greg Nagel and Neal McKnight

The East Village Association Board recently agreed unanimously to issue a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Ald. Richard Mell (who is leading the aldermanic remapping process), Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st), Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) formally requesting that the East Village be mapped entirely within the 32nd Ward. Adding urgency to the decision were recent comments from Ald. Moreno that his ward was moving west and the rapidly approaching ward remap deadline.

Chicago ward remap: East Village Association statement

November 18, 2011

The Honorable Richard F. Mell
Alderman 33rd Ward
3649 North Kedzie Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60618

Attn: Mr. Jaime Andrade
Re: East Village Association Ward Remap

Dear Mr. Mell:

The East Village Association (EVA) is a non-profit neighborhood organization with boundaries from Division Street to Chicago Avenue and from Damen Avenue to Milwaukee Avenue. EVA consists of individuals, families and businesses that live, work and operate in the East Village neighborhood. EVA has been actively working to improve our community for more than 30 years. This includes the efforts of hundreds of volunteers. Our organization writes to you to express our concerns regarding the impact of the current Ward remap on our community and on our mission. To understand our concern you must understand our mission.