In a townhall meeting held at Amundsen High School Tuesday, Aldermen Patrick O’Connor and Ameya Pawar told residents of the Winnemac Park and Lincoln Square North
Bend neighborhoods that the political transition of the two neighborhoods to the 40th Ward from the 47th Ward would be seamless.
The two aldermen also used the meeting to discuss developments in the two wards.
Lincoln Bend Chamber to Extend South
O’Connor said he intended to encourage the Lincoln Bend Chamber of Commerce to expand south on Lincoln Avenue to Lawrence Avenue. The area north of Lawrence and along Lincoln from Foster to Western is usually thought to be part of the Lincoln Square Chamber.
O’Connor thought the Lincoln Bend Chamber would be better at developing the small vacant retail spaces between Ainslie and Foster on Lincoln. O’Connor said the Lincoln Square Chamber was engaged in other activities that made the services of the Bend Chamber more attractive to the area.
The Lincoln Square Chamber manages an Special Service Area and other contracts on behalf of the city. The Bend Chamber does not manage an SSA.
The older buildings and “small(er) storefronts are not attractive to businesses,” O’Connor noted. O’Connor said the area could become an entertainment district with some restaurants and venues. He predicted some offices, such as those occupied by accountants, lawyers and real estate firms, could fill some space. However the footprint of the vacant properties was not attractive to larger retailers he said.
O’Connor said he has been approached several times by developers interested in the former White Hen property on Lincoln. He said he had turned down the applications as they involved starting hookah bars in the location.
Schools: Building and Construction but No Political Capital
O’Connor took the opportunity to explain his philosophy on working with schools, a philosophy that was heavy on construction and light on using political muscle on failing schools.
“In my opinion the local elected official’s job is to facilitate access to assets and to things the schools need,” O’Connor said. “Budlong School had a principal for 40 years. The progress that school has made (under him) is negligible.”
O’Connor said he would not get involved in school administration despite events such as Budlong’s long failure.
“Schools do not improve without dynamic Principals,” O’Connor said. “It is equally important that elected officials not get systematically involved in taking over LSCs.”
Pawar nodded his agreement as O’Connor discussed how a state law had removed the power of the City Council from administration of the schools. O’Connor encouraged parents to improve schools by joining LSCs and becoming involved with their local schools.
“North Side College Prep is the number one school in the State of Illinois,” O’Connor told the audience. “The (Board of Education) works actively to dummy it down every year.”
O’Connor said North Side College Prep was an embarrassment to the school board. “It is easier to lower that school than the expectation of parents,” he said. He noted that parents wonder why all schools can’t be as good as North Side College Prep.
He suggested that Chicago Public Schools has no real answer to that question.
Mariano’s to Receive $4.5M in TIF
Pawar told the group that a proposal to back development of the Sears Parking Lot by opening a Mariano’s and a fitness center had been approved Tuesday by a key city development gatekeeper.
Pawar said the current Sears site was generating about $100,000 a year in property taxes. Analysis indicated the Mariano’s development would capture nearly that much property tax revenue in a single month. In addition, Pawar noted the lot was not generating significant sales tax revenues, a situation that would improve with the introduction of Mariano’s.
Pawar said the city would recover the $4.5M TIF investment in about four years from increased property tax revenues, that the lot had stood vacant for more than 50 years and that TIF financing was necessary to close the deal with Mariano’s.
Pawar said the payback made the Mariano’s deal attractive.
(More videos are being uploaded from the meeting. Please stop back over the next 48 hours)