The North Park Village Nature Center includes a 46-acre nature preserve and educational facility located in the middle of Chicago, offering hiking trails and educational programs. It is one of the largest natural areas on the North Side along the Chicago River.
There are four mini-ecosystems people can enjoy, from woodlands to wetlands.
Amaris Alanis-Ribeiro, director of the North Park Village Nature Center, said the reserve is unique because of the wildlife people can find there. The center is currently raising awareness about the conservation of monarch butterflies.
“We are doing a lot of work to restore much of the grassland and native plants and species,” Alanis-Ribeiro said. “This year, monarch butterflies have been listed as endangered. Every year we hold a festival called Monarch-palooza and this year we will definitely continue to bring attention to butterfly conservation. We also want to strengthen Indigenous and cultural connections with the monarch butterfly. »
Interactive map: More information on our community reporting series
Alderman Samantha Nugentwhose neighborhood includes North Park, highlighted the preservation and restoration efforts it took to transform the North Park Village campus, home to the nature center, into what it is today.
“What we’re up to right now is 155 acres of protected space,” Nugent said. “We introduced a fall 2020 ordinance that protects this land in perpetuity, meaning you and I can enjoy this land forever. It was the site of a tuberculosis sanatorium and now it is a beautiful space that includes housing for the elderly.
North Park was originally a Swedish community and over the years has become more diverse, with a mix of different cultures and backgrounds.
Video: Watch our full interview with Samantha Nugent
The Hollywood-North Park Community Association is a resident-led alliance that has existed since 1951.
Association media officer Andrew Johnson said one of their concerns was the proposed rezoning of a commercial corridor at the corner of Kimball and Foster.
Fazal Development Network owns the building where five businesses are currently renting.
The landlord told WTTW News his plan is to rebuild a mixed-use building with apartments above commercial space on the ground floor. He shared that he has owned the subway, located on the property, for 20 years and his vision is to improve the neighborhood.
However, the association raised concerns that the proposed apartment buildings would cause more traffic along Kimball and Foster and current businesses would be forced to close.
“Ideally there’s new development so more people can live in our neighborhood, there’s more foot traffic to support local businesses, but if that comes at the expense of local businesses that are already here, then it’s It’s a tough compromise,” Johnson said. . “Hopefully there is a way to meet both needs.”
Taqueria Las Flores currently operates on this property.
Jasmine Flores, the restaurant’s owner, said she had invested her savings in renovating her business and the closure would cause financial pressure for all business owners despite the proposed timeline for the redevelopment.
“My business is one of the few businesses that hasn’t received financial assistance,” Flores said. “Either we weren’t eligible for PPE or we couldn’t get the money, so when I heard that I was like, ‘Oh no, I have to start from scratch.’ whether I start here or go somewhere else, it would have to be zero again.
Video: Watch our full interview with terry mena
Meanwhile, located on the border of North Park and Albany Park, Asian social services focuses on helping immigrants and refugees receive the resources they need, including job training, English classes, and health programs.
The organization said Chicago is a hub for asylum-seeking refugees, and for 45 years Asian Human Services has helped thousands of families get back on their feet.
“(The) northwest side is slowly becoming the hub for immigrant and refugee families,” said Rebecca Curtis-Creighton of Asian Human Services. “Uptown was historically the entry point, and what you see as things get gentrified, as things change, people move further north and west, so the area of North Park, West Ridge, Rogers Park, we attract families from all neighboring areas to where we are located.
Asian Human Services also operates a charter school named Passages.
Ali Tarokh is the school’s director of operations and shared that they serve a large population of refugee students.
Tarokh is an Iranian refugee and said he has dedicated his life to helping others overcome the challenges that come with fleeing their home country and building a new life.
“I want to send this message to other refugees: ‘Hey, we came here by force. It’s good, but we have this chance to rebuild our lives,” said Tarokh. “Every refugee who is on the right path and on the right track makes me happy.”
Similarly, Northeastern Illinois University has contributed to the mission of assistance with the settlement of refugees in the region through scholarships. WTTW News reported on this program in February.
Vice President and Dean of Students at Northeastern Illinois University Dr Terry Mena says it was a successful first semester.
“Our 15 Afghan students have successfully completed the Spring 2022 semester with very good grades and retention pass rate,” Mena said. “We have worked hard to provide comprehensive services to these students who have gone through such traumatic experiences and had to be airlifted out of Afghanistan. We have worked hard to give them a support person who works with them, provides academic and personal support, and a team of people.
The community is also home to North Park Universitywho has been a mainstay of the community since 1891.
President Mary Surridge said the university offers a variety of courses and this year they expect all students to attend in person.
“Well, some call us Chicago’s best-kept secret because we have this beautiful campus, almost an urban oasis, right here on Chicago’s North Side,” Surridge said. “But we started as a small Christian institution founded by Swedish immigrants. Founded in Minnesota and then moved to the urban center of Chicago in the early 1890s.”
Surridge also said they are in the early stages of planning to develop more residential housing for the campus.
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.