‘Chicago Tonight’ in your neighborhood: Irving Park | Chicago News


Irving Park on the northwest side of Chicago is a spacious community area with a variety of local businesses and easy access to transportation.

Within the community there are several neighborhoods, one of them is Old Irving Park which is being revitalized with new businesses and projects in the area.

One is a new Northwest Ambulatory Medical Center along Irving Park Road and North Kenneth Avenue.

“It was originally proposed to be a five story building but we worked with the Alderman’s office to get them to knock it down and put in additional underground parking so they could make it a four story building. floors that is more in keeping with the other buildings along the stretch,” said Adrienne Chan, President of the Old Irving Park Association.

More than 200 residents come together to address “quality of life” issues through the Old Irving Park Association, according to Chan, who says the group is working with local leaders to push for change.

Recently, the city committed to adding protected bike lanes along Milwaukee Avenue.

“One of the things that draws a lot of people to the neighborhood is the proximity to transportation,” Chan said. “We have access to two metro lines, including a Metra and Blue Line stop. There is also easy access to the Kennedy, but we also have Milwaukee Avenue which is a great direct route to downtown. Many people are interested in biking both downtown and in other neighborhoods along Milwaukee Avenue, and it’s important that this be a safe area for people on bikes.

Interactive map: More information on our community reporting series

Welcome is another non-profit organization that has been active in Irving Park for over 100 years. It is a foster care agency that aims to bring hope and healing to children in foster care. It currently houses around 40 children at the centre.

“One of our teenagers recently said, ‘There’s no one who cares about me who doesn’t get paid to care about me. Think about it for a minute,” said Jon Ebersole, Director of Programs for LYDIA Home. “The sad thing is, she’s right. That’s what LYDIA Home is all about: bringing hope, healing and a home to children in need and involved in the foster care system or that we are trying to keep out of the foster care system.”

LYDIA Home has strong community partnerships including Irving Park Community Food Pantry, Chicagoland Truck Rental, Berman Subaru, Bethel Community Church, Park Church, and Cityline Bible Church.

Ebersole said they still need more mentors and host families.

“We need people to come to our website and sign up to mentor or foster, or just to get more information about it so more kids can say, ‘There are people out there who care. me and they don’t get paid for it,'” Ebersole said.

Video: Watch the full interview with LYDIA Home’s Jon Ebersole.

Overall, Chicago is home to a large native population with multiple tribes scattered across the city, including a large Native American presence in Irving Park.

Native community leaders have worked for years to provide social housing for Native Americans in Chicago, and in 2024, the first affordable housing complex for Native Americans is expected to be completed.

“I feel like we’re not newcomers to the area, and it feels really good to finally have a place where we can make our home a permanent place,” said Pamala Silas of Visionary VenturesNFP. “We are looking to have about 40 affordable units. The first floor will be commercial. We want to make sure the space is leased to Native American nonprofits and businesses so we can provide more support to our residents.

(Courtesy of CANOPY Chicago)

The development will be along Irving Park Road and within walking distance of Horner Park and the Chicago River. Shelly Tucciarelli and Silas of Visionary Ventures both said the process was emotional, but ultimately a big win.

“I’ve seen us lose community members to other states because of affordability. They are the main culture keepers in our community who couldn’t afford to stay here, and I hope we bring some of them back,” said Silas. “Even the concentration of families who will go to a local school so that we have a presence where a community is visible.”

The neighborhood is home to Native American institutions, including Saint Kateri Center, a faith-based organization focused on providing outreach programs for Chicago’s Native community. The center serves people of all ages with the goal of providing elders and youth with a space to worship.

“We are very engaged with our young people to build their confidence in their cultural identity, because sometimes these young people are the only Native Americans in the classroom or even in their school…building that confidence in them and being comfortable being able to talk about their culture,” said Jody Roy, director of the St. Kateri Center in Chicago. “Being in an urban setting, sometimes there’s a disconnect with their roots from the reservations, so it’s important to embrace that culture.”

Residents WTTW News spoke to describe the neighborhood as family-friendly with large parks and plenty of local bars with a diverse food scene. JT’s Authentic Sandwich Shop is still fairly new to the area, but owner Chris Cunningham has brought some of his roots to the neighborhood.

“We make Coney dogs from Detroit and Nets from Iowa and Indiana,” Cunningham said. “People come for a bite of comfort here, and it’s nice to see them come in instead of hanging a bag in front of the door.”

Cunningham has been a resident for 10 years and his restaurant is named after his two children. He says people are what kept his family here.

“Great community of neighbors and businesses,” Cunningham said. “We have some of the best parks in the city. Independence Park, Horner Park are within walking distance beautiful tree lined homes, it’s a complete package.”

Liz Kavanaugh, another local business owner, started Lizard’s Liquid Lounge 14 years ago. The building itself has long been a “shelter” for the community.

“I originally bought it when it was called Lost and Found, which was the oldest lesbian bar in the country,” Kavanagh said. “It’s a privilege to have him back. It’s not just a gay bar anymore, but it’s open to everyone…the community has been amazing. Lately we’ve had music festivals, live music and artists coming to me and saying, ‘I’d like to play’, because it’s not one of the big venues.

Video: Watch our full interview with Liz Kavanaugh.

Community Report Series

“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re taking to the streets to talk with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we went and what we learned using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Dots in red represent our COVID-19 Across Chicago series; blue marks our “Chicago Tonight” series in Your Neighborhood.


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