Why do people move to Gladstone Park and stay for generations?
Once residents settle in, they find that this little community is ferociously different from any other Chicago neighborhood they’ve ever lived in. How do they love where they live? As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote in her sonnet, “Let [us] count the ways.” Gladstone Park surprises with its:
- bucolic small town feel with easy access to first-class Chicago entertainment, culture, sports, medical services, restaurants, transportation, parks, libraries, and other resources,
- sturdy historic brick housing stock, mostly modest and comparatively affordable by city standards,
- abundant two/four flat and apartment rentals at reasonable market rates,
- low-rise, spread-out landscape with almost no buildings above 3 stories,
- low-density development with a lack of traffic and parking woes,
- locally-owned commercial properties with few chain restaurants or stores,
- safe atmosphere with consistently low crime rates amongst the city’s fastest police response times,
- access to Cook County Forest Preserves parkland along its entire northern border,
- attractive leafy streets with well-maintained properties,
- neighbors with strong middle class values who care about each other and prove it daily, and
- strong local schools and community organizations.
Looking at the list, one can directly peg virtually every positive aspect of Gladstone Park to its low-rise, low-density landscape. With fewer people per square mile, the conditions that make day-to-day life easier and more pleasurable naturally follow.
Gladstone Park is indeed a small town oasis in an urban landscape. Residents who move here almost immediately notice the neighborhood is different from anywhere else in Chicago, at least partly because it’s 10-11 miles from the center city. Here the community is celebrating the 2021 coming of Christmas in Chopin Plaza with a tree lighting ceremony, hot chocolate, carols, and Santa Claus. The park is named after Polish composer Frédéric François Chopin to honor the many Poles who originally settled in the community as well as its second and third generations who keep the Polish culture and language in Gladstone Park very much alive. More recently, diversification has come from a vibrant Hispanic community that now constitutes about one-quarter of its population. Gladstone Park’s low-rise, spread-out landscape bordered by parkland is the constant that provides for a safe, easy-going, caring community for all, free from traffic woes and parking problems. Photo from Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association’s Facebook Page.
Imagine living within the bounds of one of America’s largest cities where you don’t have to fumble with a credit card to pay for parking every time you go out to pick up a pizza or buy a bar of soap. Where you drive on wide, two-way streets and can find a parking spot for your car in front of your house without having to deal with permits. Where you can feel safe hiking, running, or birding in the nearby Forest Preserves. Where your neighbors show pride in home ownership in well-kept historic bungalows, English Tudors, and Dutch Colonials, many of them single-family, set off by neatly trimmed lawns and leafy parkway trees. Where residents constantly show they care whether they’re volunteering at food pantries or shoveling snow off their neighbors’ sidewalks without being asked.
This website has used catchphrases for the community such as “Gladstone Park: Hidden Gem of Northwest Chicago,” “Gladstone Park: It’s Different Here,” and “Gladstone Park: Small Town Oasis in an Urban Landscape.” While residents here may be locals first, they are Chicagoans at heart, proud to live in their self-identified Sanctuary City that cares for all its peoples. In its “Welcoming City Ordinance,” former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council specifically vowed for the first time to legally protect the rights of the immigrants that have contributed to make the city as great as it is, granting them access to the same city services as other residents receive. This prompted the Chicago Public Schools and the City Colleges of Chicago to take extra steps to ensure students have safe learning environments, protected from any discrimination over immigration status. Mayor Lori Lightfoot further expanded Chicago’s status as a Welcoming City by prohibiting the Chicago Police Department from cooperating with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to harass or arrest its immigrants. Meanwhile, while recognizing the intelligence of all to exercise their democratic liberties, the city also declared itself a “Bodily Autonomy Sanctuary City” in September, 2022 vis-a-vis the Roe v. Wade abortion debate.
As a big city, Chicago is also unusual in maintaining strong pet-friendly policies with many private landlords allowing renters to own cats and dogs. The Chicago Sun-Times, December 31, 2021, detailed how tenants of public and affordable housing apartments had been newly guaranteed the right to own up to two cats or one dog under 50 pounds in their units, codifying what most landlords already did in a January 1, 2022 state law.
And don’t discount how well-positioned Chicago is for climate change. During 2022 and 2023 when the East and West Coasts were experiencing devastating wildfires and massive storms that caused flooding and mudslides, the South had tornado after tornado, freak ice and snow storms, and rains in amounts rarely seen before. Because of its geographical location far from the atmospheric challenges of the oceans as well as the punishing heat of southern environs, Chicago and Gladstone Park, in comparison, suffered from few unusual weather events.
Perhaps the community could explore whether it could adapt the “Chicago Not in Chicago” slogan the ad agency Energy BBDO came up with for its new tourism marketing campaign that was perceived so negatively and confusing that it was publicly pilloried, as described in the January 29, 2022 The Chicago Tribune. Doesn’t tweaking the rallying cry to “Gladstone Park: In Chicago, Not Chicago” give real meaning to the community by locating it within a city it loves without letting its urbanity totally define it?
Not that everything’s hunky-dory. Gladstone Park has its own share of problems that range from vacant storefronts in a business district sadly in need of beautification to a perceived lack of control over the community’s destiny when it comes to dealing with city politics and red tape. Fortuitously, the nascent Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association is providing the conduit for residents to stand up together to identify what the community’s all about in order to determine what it wants to be.