A year in review: Area’s ten communities provide big news in 2019 through Gazette Chicago coverage
December 6, 2019

By William S. Bike

The ten communities of this area experienced another busy news year in 2019, and Gazette Chicago covered the news thoroughly. Following is a look back at news in the months the newspaper covered it.

FEBRUARY

Voters cast their ballots for aldermen and mayor. Gazette Chicago endorsed Lori Lightfoot for mayor early, when she was polling in the single digits, and she ended up garnering the highest vote total.

The Chicago Archdiocese began deciding the fates of Bridgeport churches and schools All Saints-St. Anthony, St. Barbara, St. Mary of Perpetual Health, St. Therese Chinese Catholic, Nativity of Our Lord, and St. Gabriel parishes through the Renew My Church process, and also began the same process on the Near West Side, which included the cluster of Holy Family and Notre Dame de Chicago parishes, the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, and the University of Illinois at Chicago St. John Paul II Newman Center.

MARCH

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) previewed its master plan to grow and beautify the campus. The City improved parking regulations in the South Loop/Near South area to manage Wintrust Arena and Soldier Field crowds better. The Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame on West Taylor Street closed and removed the Joe DiMaggio statue in the piazza across the street, angering the community.

Bridgeport and Taylor Street area parishioners continued providing input on Renew My Church. Hilco Redevelopment Partners announced plans to turn the old Crawford Power Generating station into a distribution center. UIC professor Dick Simpson discussed his latest book, The Good Fight, which combines a memoir with campaign advice.

The Illinois Hunger Coalition revealed that fewer than 50% of low-income children in Illinois eat a healthful breakfast. The Chicago Cubs hired Keronn Walker, who founded local baseball academy BIG, as a scout. The UIC rocket team won first place at the Spaceport America Cup competition. The Resurrection Project announced plans to develop St. Vitus Church into affordable housing.

The UIC College of Dentistry offered the community free oral cancer screenings. St. Baldrick’s Foundation awarded grants to UIC and the University of Chicago to fight childhood cancer. Roosevelt Square apartments opened above the Little Italy branch library. The City considered landmarking old Cook County Hospital. The Chicago Public Schools decided to keep National Teachers Academy open as an elementary school instead of a high school.

APRIL

With no clear winner in February, Alex Acevedo faced Byron Sigcho-Lopez in the 25th Ward aldermanic runoff. Lori Lightfoot, once again endorsed by Gazette Chicago, faced Toni Preckwinkle in the mayoral runoff. Local State Rep Melissa Conyears-Ervin faced 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar for Chicago treasurer.

A proposal to lift the ban on rent control in Chicago made progress in the State Legislature. State Rep Rob Martwick (D-19th) attempted to circumvent the will of the people by introducing a reactionary bill smacking of party politics that would have turned the Cook County Assessor’s position from an elected one to an appointed one.

West Loop improvements included a new Fulton Market streetscape and a new el station at Damen Avenue and Lake Street. The Illinois Department of Transportation revealed construction at the Byrne Interchange would last until 2022. Rev. Connor Danstrom of St. John Paul II Newman Center at UIC and others got “pied” for a good cause at a “Pie a Priest Day” fundraiser.

MAY

The City prepared to break ground on the controversial Chicago public safety training center to replace the current police and fire academies. Landmark Development announced its plan to create One Central, a combination of residential and commercial buildings, public green spaces, parking, and a transit hub. The plan subsequently sparked protests from South Loop residents.

The Chicago Department of Water Management revealed that the MeterSave program was causing lead levels in drinking water to rise. Gazette Chicago reported on Lori Lightfoot, Melissa Conyears-Ervin, and Byron Sigcho-Lopez winning their elections. The Epiphany Center for the Arts moved closer to completion.

South Loop School expanded into a new building. The University of Illinois Cancer Center received a grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb to build connections with local communities. The Skinner West Elementary School annex opened. Bridgeport teen Joshua Houston won the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Youth of the Year Award.

Starbucks announced plans for a store and retail complex at Halsted and 31st Streets.

Photo by Jenny Fontaine, University of Illinois at Chicago
Call Me Mister is a program at UIC to graduate more minority teachers for elementary schools.

JUNE

Locals expressed frustration with the Chicago Housing Authority and Related Midwest for not building more market rate housing at the old ABLA Homes site, as part of the Roosevelt Square development. The Grant Park Advisory Council/Grant Park Conservancy executed a controversial leadership shakeup. Thor Equities announced plans to build an 18-story office building in the West Loop, with community members raising height and traffic concerns.

A statewide blood bank coalition issued an alert about needing more blood donations from minorities. UIC’s College of Education initiated its Call Me Mister program to encourage more African American and Latino men to become educators. Google announced its new finance hub will come to the West Loop.

Gazette Chicago published its Summer in the City guide of summer events in Chicago. The Rev. Scott Donahue, president and CEO of Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, won induction into the Irish American Hall of Fame. Kevin O’Kelly, Gianni Esposito, and Lesly Rodriguez earned Antoinette DiFiore scholarships.

The McKinley Park Council created a development plan. Governor JB Pritzker signed a bill striking down “right to work” exploitation of workers.

Father Kevin Hays prepares to read the Gospel in English, French, and Spanish at Notre Dame de Chicago in a fundraiser for the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the homeless in Paris.

JULY

The Illinois Medical District’s plans for Gateway Chicago residential towers’ density and scope worried the Tri-Taylor community. The West Loop Community Organization proposed a new property tax levy in the Fulton Market area. The State’s passage of a recreational cannabis bill drew mixed reactions.

Notre Dame de Chicago Parish hosted a fundraiser for the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Parisian homeless. The South Loop community persuaded The 78’s developer to move the new Red Line Chicago Transit Authority station. Morning Star Baptist Church prepared to celebrate its 102nd anniversary.

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi took a listening tour to promote a bill assuring commercial assessments’ accuracy. The Chicago Department of Transportation began making changes to South Loop bicycle lanes. Gazette Chicago named Julie Becker advertising manager and Carmen Valentino business manager.

Photo by Amy Rothblatt
Activists and parishioners protested the Archdiocese’s decision to close St. Adalbert Church.

AUGUST

South Loop community members and elected officials objected to One Central plans. Protesters stormed the Loop to oppose the Trump Administration’s detention and family separation policies. Proponents and opponents of legalized marijuana discussed its health benefits.

St. Adalbert’s Church held its last Mass, but parishioners fought on to try to save the church. Lynda Thompson held a GoFundMe campaign to save her Bronzeville home. Recently elected 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez worked on housing preservation and affordability issues. Kambium Buckner settled in as State Representative in the 26th District.

The Little Italy Festa returned to Taylor Street.

SEPTEMBER

Saint Ignatius College Prep agreed to share its athletic fields with the community, but some community members still opposed the project, fearing it would cause gentrification. The Tri-Taylor Community Association protested a proposed gas station at the old Acme Barrel site. Congressmen and activists sought ways to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allows unlimited spending on political campaigns.

Alderman Sigcho-Lopez tried using downzoning to save St. Adalbert’s Church. Don Jerome became Ninth District/Deering police commander. Mayor Lightfoot considered making the proposed police/firefighter training center even larger. Democratic committeemen appointed Jawaharial “Omar” Williams, son of Alderman Walter Burnett, 10th District state representative.

The 9th Police District and the community celebrated National Night Out. Rent control advocates geared up for a new push for legislation in the Illinois General Assembly. A council of local government, business, and residential leaders created a development plan for Bridgeport and Canaryville.

William F. Bike, retired Gazette Chicago circulation driver, made the Honor Flight Chicago flight to Washington, DC. Gazette Chicago reporter Gabriella Valentino won an Apex Award from Communications Concepts for her coverage of the Hamilton Education Program. Robert Peters became 13th District state senator. Illinois passed a law mandating tougher penalties for texting and driving.

Photo by Christopher Valentino
National Night Out featured entertainment and brought residents, police, and governmental and civic leaders together to promote police-community partnerships.

OCTOBER

The South Loop Concerned Coalition filed a freedom of information request concerning One Central. The Chicago City Council voted to approve zoning changes in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor. Questions arose about protecting the public in an era of legal cannabis.

Sweet Maple Café celebrated its 20th anniversary. Large crowds and protesters greeted Mayor Lightfoot at budget town hall meetings. Columbus Day became endangered in Chicago as aldermen introduced an ordinance to reinvent this holiday as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Construction began on a co-living space, Common Addams.

Hyundai provided a grant to fund pediatric cancer care at UI Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Connie’s Pizza added a brew pub. The City Council honored David R. Ramos with a resolution praising his work on Chicago Public Schools local school councils. The Ruth M. Rothstein Core Center celebrated 20 years of prevention, care, and research concerning HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.

NOVEMBER

CivicLab urged the City to abolish TIFs and give the money to schools, parks, and libraries. Chicago finished testing an e-scooter program. The Illinois General Assembly looked into the vaping crisis. The South Loop Concerned Coalition placed a banner along the South Loop portion of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon stating its members’ opposition to the proposed One Central development.

Build Bronzeville worked to improve the community through business initiatives, co-working space, and a community garden. The 11th Ward office said the proposed Starbucks at 31st and Halsted remains on track, with the City planning street repairs in the area. The City promised to repair Fulton market streetscaping bollards and pavers.

The Resurrection Project slated new affordable housing at 1850 S. Racine Ave. The Encompassing Center, a free mental health clinic, opened. Mayor Lightfoot made a no-fanfare visit to Smith Park to watch Little League baseball. Melissa Villalobos spoke at the UIC Newman Center on her role in John Henry Newman’s becoming a Roman Catholic saint.

PONY baseball named a new local field director, Dan Ernst.