‘Chicago Tonight’ in your neighborhood: North Center | Chicago News


Chicago’s North Center neighborhood is a community where many city dwellers are raising families with plenty of schools, parks, and public spaces. The Brown Line runs through the area, and the Chicago River marks the western boundary of North Central. Many residents and community leaders have worked for years to create a sense of community and to address infrastructure needs to improve transportation safety.

Interactive map: More information on our community reporting series

North Center has long been known as a family neighborhood.

North Central Chamber of Commerce Board member Simon Stein said the group not only works to boost businesses in the area, but also does philanthropic work and has focused on bringing the community together through different events, to help neighbors feel rooted.

“People can choose to live anywhere they want in a city,” Stein said. “We have people who have left the city for the suburbs. I’m a city guy, so I think if we have activities, programs, and a vibrant business community, it makes people want to stay rather than leave.

One of the measures to attract and retain people in the centre-north is its farmers marketwhich features live music and restaurant pop-ups, in addition to locally grown produce.

“I think there’s something very special about knowing where your food comes from, knowing where your peppers come from or your eggplant comes from,” Stein said. “It also helps our farmers in Illinois and Michigan.”

The former Jeri’s Grill at Montrose and Western, which closed in 2020 after nearly 60 years of operation.

Its new owners are the family that runs the popular restaurant Alexander at Edgewatera restaurant that Jeri visited as a customer.

The Mizhquiri family, owners of Alexander’s, said they heard from many north-central neighbors who were excited about the arrival of their new restaurant in the neighborhood.

“They see what we are doing there (at our current location). You really have the impression of arriving in a place where you know 90% of the people. says Erik Mizhquiri. “You see them (customers) day to day. They become an extended version of our family, or an extended version of us.

Erik Mizhquiri’s family bought Alexander’s in Edgewater four years ago after his father, Luis, spent more than 30 years as a chef.

Mizhquiri said he wanted to bring the same family atmosphere to his north-central outpost, which he hopes to open from mid-September to late September.

“It’s fun,” Mizhquiri said. “That’s the only way for us to do it, is to do it as a family. Everyone manages what you have to manage. And if you can’t ask for help, someone has you.

Video: Watch our full interview with Matt Martin

Longtime Martyrs’ Concert Halllocated along Lincoln Avenue, is another North Center family business and has been around since 1995.

The return to live events has been exciting for the small rock club amid the challenges of COVID-19, according to Martyrs manager and talent buyer Brennan Quinn.

“It’s been a pleasure to see people come back,” Quinn said. “People have been really excited to come back to live shows over the years. Even though we were closed indoors for 15 months, we were able to partner with a neighboring business on the terrace. Now things are starting to come back inside. People are ready to party. It’s awesome.

The hall currently seats about 300 people.

Another long-standing community staple is Thresholds, which has locations across the state. In Centre-Nord, it has a residential program and a day school for young people aged 16 to 21 with mental health problems.

Program director Bea Sobel said many of these young adults are also trauma survivors and part of the Ministry of Children and Family Services system.

“These combinations can make it very difficult for them to navigate between school, community, work and relationships. We are working with them to try to move out of the world of adolescent services and into the adult world,” Sobel said.

The young adult program just received a $1 million federal grant for building renovations, which Sobel says will allow the nonprofit to create a space designed with work in mind.

“(Renovating it) instead of managing it as best we can and trying to make it fit our needs. For our young people, it sends a very good message that they are precious, that they deserve to have an investment in them, in their future,” Sobel said.

Another way North Center leaders have said they want to invest in the neighborhood’s most vulnerable residents is through infrastructure improvements, aimed at making things safer for cyclists and pedestrians, especially children and the elderly.

Earlier this summer, Peter Paquette, 75, a longtime community volunteer, was hit and killed by a driver as he crossed Irving Park Road.

His death came just days after 2-year-old Rafi Cardenas was killed by a driver near Lincoln Square. But even before those deaths, the local alderman’s office was focused on making streets and sidewalks safe.

“You can’t have a normally functioning neighborhood community if people can’t get to events, schools, parks safely. That said, it highlighted the degree to which we care about how what we make our infrastructure out of,” said Joshua Mark, director of development and infrastructure for the 47th Precinct office.

Video: Watch our full interview with Brennan Quinn

Along Irving Park Road and other parts of North Central and the 47th Precinct, some of these changes include protected bike lanes, expanded sidewalks and pedestrian zones, and traffic calming measures, particularly close to schools.

Alderman Matt Martin said pedestrian and cyclist safety is an issue that should be tackled citywide, rather than neighborhood by neighborhood.

“Nobody I’ve talked to ever thinks about the room they’re in when they’re walking or biking somewhere,” Martins said. “Like ‘I’m going to be in this room and avoid this other room.’ It makes absolutely no sense. We should build infrastructure around it. It doesn’t make sense that in one neighborhood you have a painted bike lane or a concrete protected bike lane, and in another neighborhood you have nothing this genre.

Martin recently proposed an order that would require improvement of pedestrian crossings, cycle paths and transit routes each time the streets are repaved.

“Let’s say on Ontario Street, or here on Lincoln Avenue, when we’re digging a street to put in a new layer of asphalt, we should also think about what other improvements we want to put in place. It’s great from a safety standpoint, but also good for the city’s bottom line,” Martin said.

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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