Main Street Beverly: A Mission Statement

Think of a city or neighborhood you love that isn’t your own. Maybe it’s Paris with its grand boulevards and sidewalk cafes or a charming, narrow backstreet in Italy where locals congregate and dine. Perhaps it’s the old industrial neighborhood of a city that has been re-inhabited and repurposed or a quaint town in a corner of America that only you and a few others know about.

Think of what you love about that place — how it looks, how it is designed, how the people interact with each other. That is its sense of place, that certain something that inspires people from near and far to visit and for locals to put down roots and bring it to life.

Now, think of your neighborhood. Does it have that same spark? Does it inspire you and others in the same way as those other places?

Of course you love the neighborhood — or at the very least, parts of it — otherwise you would probably live somewhere else. Beverly, Morgan Park and Mount Greenwood are aspirational neighborhoods, the kinds of places that are beloved for their beautiful homes, diverse population and good schools. But like all communities, our neighborhoods are not without their challenges, from vacant storefronts and parcels to underused parking lots. These things often either detract from that sense of place or prevent it from becoming fully realized like in those other cities and neighborhoods we love. With this blog, I hope to start discussions about ways we can enhance the sense of place in the Beverly area and bring about change that improve its economic well-being and quality of life.

Don’t get me wrong — I am first and foremost a booster for this community. I intend to celebrate the aspects of it I love, especially its people, businesses, organizations and culture. But as a boosters, I’m not afraid to give tough love when it is needed. It is my hope that the stories in this blog spark discussions about initiatives big and small that can make our already great neighborhoods even stronger and better.

Some ideas might prove to be popular. Others, I realize, might not be loved by everyone. However, I won’t shy away from informed and civilized debate. When it comes to economic development in this community, I will often challenge the status quo, because it is clear that in some cases the status quo is not working.

But I will never criticize in a way that isn’t constructive. I will present new ideas, drawing inspiration from other Chicago neighborhoods, other cities and, most importantly, the people in our own communities.

This blog is about place and all the components that come together to shape it: people, businesses development and culture. And it’s also about fostering that sense of place for the long-term, continuing to refine all the parts as everyone in this community strives to build the perfect neighborhood. The beautiful thing is that it will never be perfect. There will always be challenges. Those challenges give us, the people of Beverly, Morgan Park and Mount Greenwood, the opportunity to band together to come up with solutions, strengthening our feeling of community in the process. Anyone who wants to participate is welcome.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Main Street Beverly: A Mission Statement

  1. I recently had a discussion with someone I met about the dichotomy of two Morgan Parks, the one in the west I live in and the one in the east he lives in. We talked about the physical and psychological barriers that have separated them throughout history from independent village to city neighborhood. The topic of the recent attempt by the city to redistrict eastern portions of Beverly and Morgan Park into an adjacent ward came up. This raised the issue of how people view the desirability of being associated with the cache of different neighborhoods and the perception of the effectiveness of the political clout in each community. We pride ourselves as a racially diverse community, but what exactly does that mean? When we are confronted with the occasional incident of intolerance or racism, what is our reaction? Do we view it as an anomaly outside the norm, or is it the proverbial tip of the iceberg of unspoken resentment and mistrust? Are we a truly integrated community, or do we coexist in different spheres of color and culture that intersect in small, inconsequential ways? My experiences tell me that we often live in separate worlds that rarely mesh, and we are the poorer for it. Our challenge is to open the lines of communication to increase the social interactions between the various people who call our neighborhoods home. We also need to reach beyond our borders to our neighbors, as we share the same concerns for our collective future.

    Like

    • Well put! I probably haven’t lived in the community as long as you have, but I notice this dichotomy, too, and you are definitely correct when you say the barriers are psychological as well as physical. I see it in Beverly as well, not just with the two halves of my neighborhood, but with neighboring Washington Heights, as well.

      On the physical side, I definitely believe there are connectivity issues that can make the eastern part of Morgan Park feel like a different place. Out development pattern over the past 50 years has favored separated uses and isolation — highways cutting through the neighborhood, auto oriented development, cul-de-sacs, etc. — and our social fabric is worse off because of that.

      On the psychological side, I’d direct you to one of my favorite blogs dealing with urbanism, segregation and other related topics: City Notes (http://danielkayhertz.com). The author, Daniel Kay Herz, writes a lot about the public’s and the media’s failure to paint a realistic picture of the South Side of Chicago. Morgan Park falls squarely in the South Side’s middle class, but it often isn’t portrayed that way.

      Unfortunately, mindsets can be difficult and slow to change, but I think what we do have control over is the physical environment and how it promotes social cohesion. If we can start to fix the connectivity problems that exist for our neighborhoods, we can better interact with our neighbors and start to break down those psychological barriers.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s