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

Village Viewpoint

By Maureen Gainer Reilly 
BAPA Board President 

It’s easy to love Beverly/Morgan Park at this time of year when spring works it’s magic and reminds us why we don’t pack up and move to California.  The neighborhood is incredibly beautiful when all the trees, flowering bushes and gardens highlight our historic homes.   

But what really gets me this time of year is the sheer number of residents who share their time, talent and treasure with the neighborhood.  

Each spring BAPA brings us the Clean & Green, the Home Tour and the Ridge Run and Memorial Day Parade (thankfully we have new, hip coffeeshops to caffeinate the small but mighty BAPA staff). The number of people needed to pull of these events is staggering. I don’t know of another Chicago neighborhood that can boast hundreds and hundreds of volunteers pulling together to beautify, build community and hang with their neighbors on the scale of Beverly/Morgan Park.   

We can measure the actual number of volunteers who help out, but want can’t be quantified is the effect these events have on the strength of our community.   

Anyone who did the Clean and Green can tell you the weather was horrible with a cruel Chicago mix of rain, wind and snow.  But that didn’t stop over 100 volunteers and civic associations from working on our parks, train stations and schools.  I met a woman who worked with a large crew at the 103rd street Metra station who told me she feels great each morning on the platform headed downtown knowing she helped make it a beautiful space. 

How do you measure that feeling?  

While standing in a living room volunteering for the Home Tour, I asked a woman from the North Side why she came down to the tour with her daughter.  Her response, “I’ve never been here but people from Beverly are so into Beverly I had to see it for myself!” 

 How do you measure that our “love where you live” sentiment is known all over the city 

And we’ll never know the exact number of runners who have bought a house here after weaving through our packed, cheering streets on Ridge Run day.   

We are lucky.  No other neighborhood in Chicago has similar, 70-year-old, grass roots neighborhood organization like BAPA.  I am so grateful BAPA is here providing a framework for residents, civic groups, businesses and institutions to connect, celebrate and strengthen our neighborhood.  I hope you’ll join me and the countless BAPA volunteers and BAPA members who make Beverly/Morgan Park so strong.  See you at the next event!  

Village Viewpoint

By Susan Flood

When I was starting my career out just of college I jumped into the blooming desktop technology industry.  Desktop PCs and Macs were in their infancy, and the industry workers, previously thought of as loners and extremists, were suddenly regarded as the young visionaries of capitalism.  

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with Adobe Systems founder John Warnock when I worked on Adobe’s new technology team. As salesmen who aggressively sought profit, we didn’t understand why our company didn’t just commit to one tech platform – and back then PCs seemed to own the market.  John said, “There will always be Macs, people will always want a choice.  He was right.   

In our community, people have so much choice.   

We have choice in what kind of house we live in:  Victorian, Queen Anne, Chicago bungalow, Tudor, Italianate, English Country, Georgian, MediterraneanPrairie School or other styles.  The homes built by titans seeking abundant space, interesting scenery and proximity to Chicago’s city center provided a map on which we now build our modern hopes, dreams and legacies.    

We have choice in schools.  Within Beverly/Morgan Park are some of the highest ranked CPS schools in the city and unusually strong private schools, both with too many success stories to count.    

We have choice in places to shop, play, enjoy culture and music, and dine.  

It’s true to live in Beverly/Morgan Park is to embrace choice. 

We choose to live here among wonderful neighbors and friends from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, with impressive educational, cultural, artistic and career pedigrees.  We value the differences that are offered as a truly tremendous asset to imbue in our future generations.  Why not equip our kids with the knowledge of what’s truly out there to discover and how interesting it is to discover it alongside someone who may bring a different perspective to it?   

In May, BAPA works hard to draw attention to the gifts of choice our neighborhood bestows on its residents. BAPA’s biggest events — the Home Tour and Ridge Run and Memorial Day parade — evoke a sense of a well-connected small town, rich in history and full of old friends.  As we emerge from the long Chicago winter to participate in these events we see new and familiar faces and witness in both their passion for our surroundings.   

They say the indicators of what makes a place a great place to live are safety, access to good paying jobs, availability of highquality parks and recreation, availability of high-quality arts, culture and nightlife.  We are well placed for checking all those boxes.  But the real currency comes in the daytoday living in our community.  It sneaks up to us unannounced when we’re cheering on a runner at the Ridge Run or noticing the crowded sidewalks outside schools in the fall and churches on a summer day.  We’re surrounded by people we may not yet know, but we can be sure they too are here for the choice. 

 

 

Village Viewpoint 2019: So Much More Than Numbers  

By Susan Flood, BAPA Executive Director 

I was talking with a local business owner recently and I asked, “How do we get more people to open businesses here alongside you?” He quickly shared his take on this problem: “It’s demographics.” 

 Demographics are the numbers that describe the number, financial profile and average age of area residents. These numbers are compiled by drawing a radius from a center point of Beverly/Morgan Park and counting population density, average income and other characteristics of the people within that radius. They are the numbers used by marketers and developers when deciding where their investments can be most profitable.   

 Personally, I’ve never been fond of these broad-stroke labels because they miss out on so much of what’s best about the people they are trying to find out about.  Statistics and demographics are tools used to predict behavior.  I don’t see that these particular tools provide an accurate picture of the quality of life here in the Village in the City, not today, not ever.   Demographics don’t reflect the dynamic lifestyle built by generations of engaged citizens here; they don’t appreciate that we are people, not just numbers populating blocks.  

 Numbers don’t show the families that draw generations back to our community.  They don’t know the feel of a heartfelt handshake between old friends. They don’t show how we celebrate and mourn with our neighbors, helping each other through the many changes in our lives.   

 Outsiders look at the data and they get an incomplete picture of what they would be investing in if they stopped to look deeper than the lining of their pockets.  

 Last month, another kind of outsider came to our neighborhood and posted stickers promoting an organization devoted to hating people.  Outsiders hoping to take advantage of people who might be looking for financial help by selling their house fill up mailboxes with postcards and slap up billboards on street corners.  These kinds of manipulative tools are not unique to our community — all major cities deal with this reality.   

The outsiders don’t get that we are so much more than numbers here, we’re neighbors.  But we know and we ignore them and we keep telling our story, the real story. There is no place better to call home than Beverly/Morgan Park. 

 

Village Viewpoint – March 2019 

By Susan Flood, BAPA Executive Director 

Its that time again in our Village in the City!  Time to pull the bulky sweaters out of mothballs, take inventory of whether you own anything green, and start sprucing up the house for the company.  

St. Patrick’s Day is our chance to continue a tradition that has our community has enjoyed for decades, the South Side Irish Parade. A day when neighbors doors open in hospitality and families venture out together, strollers leading the way, to connect with friends, neighbors and guests along Western Avenue. 

It’s true, the story includes the fact that not everyone has been happy on parade day.  There was a time when the parade got too much attention from visitors who came in organized droves and created an atmosphere of outofcontrol public misbehavior.  The parade committee responded by cancelling the parade to break the spell and doing the hard work necessary to put together a plan to return our familyfriendly day to us.   

The task of producing parade that truly works for our community requires time, money and effort.  For parade volunteers, our local police department, our bars on Western Avenue and our civic leadership, it’s a time for all hands on deck. I feel lucky that there are people who are so dedicated to my neighborhood.  I think it’s rare. 

The first time I saw the parade was also the first time I saw Beverly/Morgan Park, now my home for nearly three decades.  I share this experience with more transplanted residents than I can count.  What I saw at that first visit to Beverly/Morgan Park is what I still see today:  A neighborhood that feels like a small town, where you walk down streets with doors opened in hospitality and where you’re greeted by name over and over. Let’s face it, who doesn’t love it when everyone knows your name?   Not everybody is Irish, but for one day, the neighborhood adopts the warmth and persistent hospitality that the Irish are known for.   

Parade day is a chance to show off our Village in the City for what truly makes us special.  It’s really about so much more than Irish last names.  It’s our respect for history and dedication to honoring it, our highly educated and diverse population of residents, the hardworking small business owners and our thriving arts community.  On parade day let’s show ‘em who we are.  My friend Bill Gainer said it best when the parade was on hiatus and asked if he thought it would come back.  “I sure hope so Suze, who doesn’t love a parade?”  

 

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.