As I See It . . . Fall/Winter 2001-02
By Mike Glasser, President, Rogers Park Builders Group

Mike Glasser Head ShotOn Tuesday, September 25, we had a most unusual monthly board meeting at Bank One’s Rogers Park Branch on Western. Subdued by the impact of the9/11 events, the meeting still represented a milestone for our organization.

A sizable crowd of about 45 people showed up, and the sponsor of the meeting, Clark Devon Hardware,had furnished a hearty Chinese/Korean meal furnished by Sue (a member of South Korea’s Fourth Place 1964 Olympic Volleyball team) and owner of the Mandarin House Restaurant (Pratt and Sheridan).With a busy agenda, my primary concern at the inception of the meeting was how I could complete it by9:15pm, and avoid the wrath of Helen, the bank’s branch manager, who most months has to threaten to call loans or raise service fees to get our stragglers out the door on time.

I started the meeting a few minutes early. After we went around the room introducing ourselves, I paused for a minute, took a deep breath and then soberly offered words of condolence to one of our executive committee members whose nephew, a 20-year-old special services officer named Dustin Lawson(Dusty), was killed while rushing to the scene at the Pentagon on September 11. The room turned silent. The ambiance of the meeting was forever changed.

I then introduced a series of developers and neighborhood leaders, each of whom updated us on the status of their developments:

1) Ken Sproul of SMB Developers, on the status of the condominium and townhouse development at the old Shell Station site, on Sheridan Road as it makes its bend around to Calgary Cemetery.

2) David Dubin, of Dubin Residential, who offered us an update of his townhouse development at Rogers and Damen. Mr. Dubin also mentioned that his company would likely be developing townhouses at the site of the old Lerner building.

3) Tim Sullivan, a principal of Cornerstone Group,presented his company’s plans for developing a Walgreen’s store at the intersection of Sheridan and Howard, where the Marathon Service Station now sits.

4) The Wisdom Bridge Task Force reported progress in their attempt to preserve an historic theatre building, which only months ago was slated to be replaced with a Dollar Store. They reported on their consider-able success, and they described unique arts related uses that they hope to bring to the site.

5) Mary Jane Haggerty, of the Rogers Park Community Council, offered an impromptu update on two other happenings on or near Howard: first, progress in the neighborhood’s push to build a new field house at the new playground adjacent to Gale School.
She also reported that the Howard Area Community Center is constructing a day care center in the old Trilogy lot, a block south of Howard Street on Ashland.

The unusual aspect about this meeting is that at any other time during our eight-year history, an agenda like this, filled with optimistic reports by qualified developers and community leaders, would have drawn praise and jubilation from our attendees. Years ago we could never have foreseen such an array of reputable developers showcasing their plans on and around Howard Street.

Yet these presentations stirred little emotion and sparked little discussion. Most months, we can’t push people out of the door at 9:30pm. This month, we all promptly left the conference room at 8:45pm, with few stragglers.

Development issues were far from being at the top of minds that evening. Issues that seemed so important–no, vital–to us only weeks before, now seemed remote. The horror of what we witnessed only weeks ago eclipsed the importance of the real estate developments presented that evening.

Let’s not diminish the importance of these positive developments. As community members and qualified developers invest their focus, money and talent into the neighborhood, we shake decades old negative perceptions of crime and instability of Howard Street and the blocks around it.

Congratulations to the people who are making all oft his happen. And God bless you, Dusty. Rest in peace.