This column describes how BAPA is fulfilling its mission of offering programs, services, and events in the Beverly and Morgan Park neighborhoods.

The Village Viewpoint

By Susan Flood 

BAPA Executive Director 

Since joining the BAPA team, I find myself in constant thought about attracting “young” families to our “old” neighborhood.  Our neighborhood’s rich collection of historic buildings including our famous Castle, preserves the experience of Beverly/ Morgan Park as a home within our city’s limits like no other.  How do our historic buildings, our Castle, serve to tempt new homebuyers to become our neighbors?  

While it’s not scientific research, my experience as a recent empty nester means I spend a lot of my discretionary time around my millennial children, and their cousins and friends.  I’ve noticed that they are deliberate about authenticity.  What they eat, what they wear, where they live, what they say.  What is more authentic than a Castle, built on a hilltop by a real estate developer with big dreams as a unique home for his family? 

Much has been written about where millennials are choosing to call home, and the trend points toward cities and neighborhoods with historic character.  Are they seeking authenticity through historic building stock?  After all, this generation, one of the largest and most diverse in our country, is giving us the “Pop-Up” and the Instagram Museum.  Temporary in nature, these pop-ups and Instagram installations are interactive experiences that attract visitors who want to be part of what they’re seeing, to add to it and to share it with others on social media. Once the picture is taken, the visitors become a real part of the installation, a part of its history.  

Robert Givins, the man who built the Castle, is quoted as saying, “The way to make a good citizen in this country is to make him part owner of it.” Instagram gives us that experience, even, if it’s only for 24 hours.   

As Millennials are starting to choose where they will settle down, will they see our historic architecture, our Castle, as the best of both the cutting edge experience they can share on social media and history, as a place where something actually happened?  

I for one, hope for a community that is committed to preserving the Castle that has given us the gift of history, memory and shared identity.  If we don’t, we may never know how our village in the city history stacks up not just as an Instagram Museum but as a special place that young people want to call home.    

 

Village Viewpoint January 2019

By Susan Flood, Executive Director

What will 2019 bring for Beverly/Morgan Park residents?  If you are like most people you’ll spend at least a few minutes this week looking ahead, making plans and, dare I say it, making a new year’s resolution or two.  This often includes a process of looking back as well as forward.

When I consider this, I remember the old saying, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” I don’t particularly like the word “doomed” when I think about the history in our corner of the world.   We have so many things to be proud of in this incredible “Village in the City.” We are lucky here, thanks to thoughtful steps to preserve historical buildings; a simple drive through the neighborhood reminds us of the positive role history plays in our lives.

Of course, when we consider the past, we’ve got to decide which past to remember. Whose story are we telling, and why?  The stories that make up our history come from the perspectives of the tellers. Certain characters, facts and themes get highlighted while others fade. The beauty in this reality is that each and every time we have a choice in how we tell it and in how we hear it.

In this way, our corner of the city takes on the dynamics of a small town. We see the people who make up our narratives over and over again in the course of months, weeks, sometimes days.  Standing in line with us at the grocery store, seated on the lawn for a baseball game, waiting in the car for school drop offs and enjoying an evening at a local restaurant or pub.

What a gift and what a responsibility.

Making predictions and resolutions for a new year can be a complicated process. If we all commit ourselves to the spirit that built this remarkable community, think of the history we can write.  In the writings of Buddha, is one simple idea with great power: Before, during and even AFTER you say something, make sure it doesn’t hurt anyone.  I can think of no more powerful resolution for the citizens of our Village in the City.

Happy New Year everyone.

 

Realizing How Green Our Grass Is

This Thanksgiving, I found myself noticing more about who was present in our neighborhood. Watching kids and cousins return to visit for a meal, a day, a week. Sure, I’m at BAPA now, so it was particularly gratifying to observe this return-to-home ritual. I took the opportunity to engage as many of these “visitors” as I could.  

Returning to our hometown is a process that celebrates the comfort of rituals. Pulling up to our childhood home and driving past the schools, parks, burger places that made up our routine are deeply grounding experiences. The rituals of knowing your neighbor, and always greeting the local coffee shop owner, florist or waitress at our favorite breakfast place feel good to practice again.  

It’s not a new concept that young people seek greener grass, often in their twenties. Job opportunity, educational options, the chance to meet new people, experience new places and learn who they are. Talking with those visitors returning home for Thanksgiving underscored how many definitions of “home” there really are. I heard so many of them tell stories of how they intend to settle down here, raise a family here, or how their sister just bought a house here. For a community organization like BAPA, these conversations feel much like a to-do list.  

If I challenge myself, the BAPA staff and volunteers to look through the lens of those who grew up in our area, we can see what to focus on providing for these “visitors” right here. Our proximity to a major U.S. city and all it has to offer leads the list as an undeniable feature of living here, but does the real currency that makes up “home” come in less obvious ways? If we focus on nurturing Beverly/Morgan Park’s traditional places and activities and carefully listen to our returning young adults, new residents and transplanted homeowners for what new experiences we can offer what will we learn? Could it become a script that BAPA can work to perfect and deliver?  

These conversations brought a very powerful feeling of comfort to someone like me who chose Beverly/Morgan Park as the place to settle. In our community the grass is really green and every day it gets greener. It reminded me of what I have thought from the day I moved into our first house, and I now devote my time and energy to. Out here, in the Village in the City, we’re on to something special. 

Village Viewpoint

By Susan Flood, BAPA Executive Director 

I can’t stop staring at The Villager front page.  As we were putting the paper together, every time I passed by the proofing copy I stopped dead in my tracks.  What is it about the faces that I find so captivating?  I don’t personally know everyone on our front page, but still, every time I catch a glimpse I can’t suppress a grin.    

I Googled that feeling and found that there is some hard science behind it.  Personal connections are literally necessary for good health.  Connected individuals have more positive health and social outcomes at all ages.   

An MIT researcher found that babies are hardwired from birth to recognize faces. When newborns are shown a picture of three dots arranged as a face — two dots for eyes and one dot for a mouth– the babies look at it longer than they do when the dots were arranged in other ways. Babies will even be drawn to electrical outlets for the same reason! (Please don’t try this at home.)  

So, I sit back and stare at this month’s front page of The Villager, and even though only 22 faces are smiling back at me, they represent hundreds of neighbors more right here, in our own backyard; neighbors with similar stories, residents and business owners alike, bringing similar gifts to our community.   

I once traveled to Oakbrook to buy a fancy hat for a Kentucky Derby party, only to find out that the one hat that all the women at the party admired most came from a small shop a few blocks from my house. I had not been connected. There are over 700 businesses in Beverly/Morgan Park — that’s 700 more faces we can connect to the benefit of all our neighbors.   

Looking at The Villager front page makes me proud of the work BAPA does creating community. The possibilities that exist when we connect person-to-person are endless. It’s a true case for showing up.  Volunteer, attend neighborhood events, browse at local retail stores, meet friends and make friends at the local coffee shop.   

You never know where the connection will lead you, but you will know, just like looking at the front page, it’s going to make you smile.

Village Viewpoint

By Susan Flood, BAPA Executive Director 

When I joined BAPA’s team six months ago I was very vocal with my viewpoint that Beverly/Morgan Park is the city’s most well-kept secret.  As I drive to work down Longwood from 95th to 1111th every morning I am consistently struck by the very same emotion: These amazing places are in my own backyard!  Passing such a wealth of architectural gems on a daily basis makes me feel lucky to have discovered our neighborhood.   

Neighbor, our well-kept secret is out.  On Oc. 13 and 14, the Chicago Architecture Center will tap our community’s hospitality as eight iconic neighborhood sites open their doors for Open House Chicago.  Beverly/Morgan Park is new to this citywide festival, which one of the largest architect events in the world.   

I have always loved to travel, especially to other countries.  When I take in the experiences of those trips, I remember the people, the food, the arts.  But where most of my time is spent is touring the architecture.  It’s the architecture that really defines the people who live in and around it.  

Sure, most of the buildings were here long before the people who live among them now, but the preservation and pride the community puts into these spaces speaks volumes about the people, their way of life, their approach to their world, the respect they have for their surroundings, each other and visitors.  

When I visit small towns, I get the feeling that I really know the people who have so lovingly cared for their historic places. For the throngs of architecture and history buffs who will be visiting our Village in the City for Open House Chicago, we are those people. What a great reflection on our neighborhood and neighbors!  

Please, be a part of this amazing event! Perhaps you’ve admired the façade of Givins Irish Castle or wondered what’s behind the amazing decorative doors of the century old firehouse that is now home to the Optimo Hat Company.  During Open House Chicago you can discover the wealth of beauty and history that’s in your own backyard.  I’m certain, like me, you already know that you are truly lucky to be “at home” with people who care so very much about our past and our future.

Village Viewpoint

By Susan Flood, BAPA Executive Director 

I love “a fresh start.” Doesn’t everyone? First day of school, first day of a new job, first dates and all the excitement that comes with them.  

It’s been a year of new beginnings for me and it’s been exhilarating. I’m a new empty nester riding the wave of a new job serving my own neighborhood. The possibilities are endless. 

I am surrounded by passion for Beverly/Morgan Park and all its beauty, culture, community spirit and challenges. But I am not alone. The BAPA office bursts at the seams daily with  

Interns, volunteers and dedicated staff who are committed to only the best for our neighborhood. We stand together on the front line watching vigilantly and springing into action to keep the community beautiful, historic, safe and welcoming. We field calls on such a vast array of topics, and have cultivated dozens of expert resources who help make a difference each and every time we call.  

BAPA has your back. 

We move forward programs that support the schools, keep residential property beautiful, preserve our historic character and support the business community. BAPA’s events connect our residents to each other in an era when technology frequently keeps people apart.  

Fall is a time of fresh starts. BAPA is focusing on offering more of what our members and residents are asking for and making it easier to access. Our community calendar, new trades referral portal, and sharper focus on delivering accurate and timely information online, in print and in person are at the top of our list.   

This month I’m asking all of you to join us. Become a BAPA member and be part of the solution. We will face challenges, some we know are on the way, other will surprise us, but we’ll face them together.  

It is because of the support from each and every one of you that BAPA can do this work. If not for you, it would not get done.   

Take me up on this opportunity if you can. All donations of every size make a difference.     

Together we can do so much more. 

Village Viewpoint

By Susan Flood, BAPA Executive Director 

It’s August and once again, I’m helping my kids move.  This got me thinking.  What makes a place home?  What makes Beverly/Morgan Park feel like home even if you’ve moved away? What do you love about Beverly/Morgan Park?  BAPA wants to know.  It’s BAPA’s job to know.  We challenge ourselves to always be asking, watching, and listening so we are able connect people with the same passions to act collectively.  

BAPA has a history of providing services and responding to problems. That’s an important resource for any community.  But what if instead of providing the answers, we focused on the questions? What are the gifts and assets that make our community so distinctive? Some things we’ve noticed: 

We have residents who are connected 

Recently, the Beverly Hills Cycling Classic brought an outpouring of rain but more remarkably it also brought out and outpouring of support from over 2000 people who came out to the event and over 130 volunteers who helped and over 30 community partners who stood alongside BAPA and the cyclists. How remarkable it was that people were more driven to be together than they were to be dry and comfortable.   

We have history 

We celebrate our community’s history by maintaining the homes and buildings that make it so distinctive, so that we reveal the story about what our community was, how it became what it is today, and in turn can help us and our children understand who we are.   

We have diversity 

The diversity of our community is outstanding. In an age where diversity and race can be a touchy subject, it is comforting to see different cultures on virtually every block and refreshing that not everybody looks the same. 

We give back 

Our neighborhood helps families in times of trouble. We support a large number of non-profits, entrepreneurs and small businesses. We stand behind each other through the ups and downs. 

We care about Art 

Through our support of the Beverly Arts Center, the Vanderpoel Art Museum and the Beverly Area Arts Alliance to the many artists who call Beverly Home we have so much to offer.  Our own Gary and Denise Gardner are the force behind the amazing Charles White Retrospective on display at the Art Institute.   

We have Rainbow Cone 

Seriously, right? 

So tell us, what do YOU love about Beverly Morgan Park?  All answers are important to BAPA.  Join the conversation by emailing me at sflood@bapa.org.  You never know, you might connect for action you never thought possible.   

Village Viewpoint

By Susan Flood, BAPA Executive Director 

Like any good Chicagoan I am absolutely thrilled when summertime rolls around.  I often find myself wondering if those who live in warm climates ever experience the day after day euphoria we feel when we open our front doors on summer days.      

At BAPA, summer comes with some kind of event to produce almost weekly: Home Tour, Ridge Run and Memorial Day Parade, weekly Family Fun Nights and Tech Tuesdays. Coming up next is the Beverly Hills Cycling Classic.   

While these events keep the BAPA staff on our toes for a few months, they are not possible without the time, energy and commitment of our neighborhood partners. The process is a lot like leading an orchestra for a performance piece with BAPA as the conductor.  The music happens when everybody comes together with their talent and hard work, sitting alongside friends and neighbors, pursuing the common goal of offering sheer enjoyment to all who come out to join us.   

Our local restaurants come out of their kitchens to offer their best in picnic style foods, beverages and treats.  The Alderman’s staff and the police from our 22nd District help in too many ways to count.  The Ridge Run wouldn’t be possible without Chicago Park District’s Ridge Park and the big-hearted hard-working Park District staff.   

We showcase our neighbors who have talent (and there are so many) to entertain us with music, art or children’s activities.  Our local businesses sponsor the events so we can afford to put them on, and join us onsite to meet residents and talk about what they have to offer.   

This year our 16th Beverly Hills Cycling Classic and Bikes and Brews Festival will be possible thanks to St. Barnabas parish joining us as a new festival partner following the closing last year of Beacon Therapeutic School.  The new St. Barnabas location makes the event more exciting than ever, with a challenging new race course and sprawling festival grounds in the St. Barnabas parking lot. I can practically hear the music now!   

And of course, all of you are important partners. 

Neighbors jump in to volunteer for tasks like selling tickets, pouring drinks, serving as course marshals or helping set up tables or tents.   

Watching everyone coming together takes us all to a new height of connection.  Like individual instruments, we can all make music as a solo, but when we’re all working together the result is an experience that transforms the day.  As a team, we create memories, make new friends and accomplish something wonderful. And it’s all in our own backyard.   

I can tell you, from where BAPA stands as conductor, our community orchestra is nothing short of extraordinary.  

Village Viewpoint: 100 Amazing Days

By Susan Flood, BAPA Executive Director

I have just completed my first 100 days as Executive Director of BAPA, and, I have to tell you, I am amazed by what this organization and its community of volunteers accomplishes.  

I can’t begin to count the number of times that people ask me, “What does BAPA do?” BAPA does so much, it’s hard to answer that question when I’m asked. I’m glad to get the question in these early days, even when I’m shopping at County Fair or having dinner at Open Outcry or rushing to make it to a hair appointment at Everything’s Relative, but my preferred response is “how much time do you have?”  

Now that I have 100 days in on the job (or should I call it a mission?), I think the focus of BAPA is the amazing effect our events have on our community – like the recent Home Tour and Ridge Run; our meetings – like our recent On The Table discussion of proactive housing preservation; and the community Clean and Green where groups worked at locations all over the neighborhood to clear away the grubby winter debris and let the promise if spring plantings shine through.  

BAPA’s brings people together for community-buildings, gather groups of experts and “idea” people to take a hard look at small problems that could become big problems and mobilize the people and resources to implement those solutions.  We put important tools into people’s hands, and put them to work on a task that will makes our community stronger today, and maintains the often forgotten priority of how this will affect our future.  

I didn’t have to look hard to see how this community is transformed when BAPA rallies people around an event or a cause. This was another amazing – and heartwarming – 100 days of discovery. You see, BAPA is operated by a very small staff of four dynamic people who understand that BAPA cannot accomplish what it does without the commitment of hundreds of volunteers and even more donors.  

This was my first time as a “BAPA insider” for the Home Tour and Ridge Run. I know “amazing” is the theme of this column, but “amazing” doesn’t come close to capturing the extent of how well planned, managed and presented these events are. Nearly 150 volunteers make the Home Tour happen. Nearly 200 are needed for the Ridge Run. When you see those Love Where You Love t-shirts all over the neighborhood, those people are BAPA volunteers – please say “Thanks.” 

BAPA’s Education Committee has liaisons in every public school to stay aware of school needs and issues, recognize students and staff for their achievement and provide resources.  

BAPA’s Safety Committee is working with important information gathered in our recent safety survey and from the police who supported the community-wide safety meeting held last fall.  

BAPA staff works every day on issues that range from beautification through Openlands grants and Weeding Wednesdays to keeping neighbors informed through The Villager and weekly enews, to partnering with area organizations, officials and City departments to make sure Beverly/Morgan Park gets its fair share of resources and opportunities.  

What does BAPA do? 

BAPA forges the connections that make us neighbors and friends, fights to preserve the uniquely outstanding architecture that defines the character of our community, provides one-on-one assistance when neighbors are having problems as well as “muscle” when bigger problems need to be tackled. 

What Does BAPA do? BAPA brings about the change we want to see..  

Village Viewpoint -May 2018

By Susan Flood, BAPA Executive Director

I held up traffic on Longwood Drive the other day. I was leaning out my passenger window at a stoplight to photograph the waves of purple Scilla that sweeping up the lawns of some of Beverly/Morgan Park’s most beautiful homes. Every spring it’s as if nature reaches out and says, “Look over here!” and our eyes follow the purple train of flowers up to the houses, and suddenly we are aware of the unique splendor that is hard to find any place else.  All this, within the city limits of a world class city.

May brings with it BAPA’s Beverly/Morgan Park Home Tour and memories of the first time I wandered through someone’s home on the tour over 20 years ago.  I felt a bit funny in my role as a voyeur.  I committed as much of the splendid design and decorating as I could to my memory so I could take these ideas home and try them in my own spaces.

This year as I toured potential Home Tour homes I was swept up with gratitude to the homeowners for the impact they make on our community by sharing their personal space for this popular event.  It makes me proud of my choice to settle in a community that sees this kind of hospitality as a priority. It’s yet another reminder of how closely connected we are in Beverly/Morgan Park, of how much we care about our neighbors simply because we live alongside them.

Until I joined the team at BAPA, I didn’t realize how much effort it takes to encourage, protect and preserve the historical beauty of our community. I have always known that BAPA makes housing preservation a priority and that will continue. The results of preservation are everywhere, most eloquently in the homes that young families are updating, taking so much care to keep the details and history that made them – like me – choose this community to call home.

Modern reality has brought home buying online, a major change in the way people make choices of where to call home.  What hasn’t changed is what we see block to block:  a foundation of remarkable homes, a neighborhood with good bones full of residents who are committed to keeping it that way.