Preserving Gladstone Park’s Worth
Although this website began as a showcase for Gladstone Park architecture, it quickly blossomed into a community site highlighting how special a place this sub-neighborhood of Jefferson Park in the Far Northwest Side of Chicago is to live. And how periled its status might be if residents don’t stay on top of faddish trends and development issues that could change its landscape. This section discusses how the community has tangled with smart vs. undesirable growth as it seeks to form its own identity through various means, including the possibility of historical preservation. Activism thus far has come primarily through through the involvement of the Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association.
DISCLAIMER: Every effort was made in this section to adhere to the highest of journalistic standards in presenting information factually and fairly, especially with development issues that might be considered controversial in nature. Although the author is a member of the Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association, she does not speak for the group.
CREDIT: Media, particularly local outlets, have played an invaluable role in informing Gladstone Parkers about all the vital issues affecting them in recent years. Readers can support the yeoman’s job Brian Nadig has done reporting in the community’s weekly Nadig Newspapers to “keep local news alive” while availing themselves of its free online access with monetary contributions.
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Gladstone Park: It’s Different
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, restaurants, transportation and other resources,
- sturdy historic brick housing stock, comparatively affordable by city standards,
- abundant two/four flat and apartment rentals at reasonable market rates,
- low-rise 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,
- access to Cook County Forest Preserves parkland along its entire northern border,
- attractive leafy streets with well-maintained properties,
- neighbors who care about each other and prove it daily, and
- strong local schools and community organizations.
Activism: Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association
It used to be if you lived where Chicago’s city limits ran out into the suburbs on N. Milwaukee Avenue on the Far Northwest side, you said you were from Jefferson Park. Sure, there was a small (William) Gladstone Park on the north side of the Kennedy Expressway with lots of Dutch Colonial houses built a century ago clustered around it. A few old maps with the “Gladstone Park” name splayed across them. And a 100-year-old Gladstone Park Union Pacific [Train] Station. But you didn’t pay much attention.
Development Threats to Gladstone Park
If low-density development is the linchpin that keeps Gladstone Park’s wheels from sliding off its axles, then it follows that challenges to its low-rise spread-out character are the major threat to its existence. Build a tall automobile storage tower, a big box store, a metal recycling plant, or a huge apartment complex and you’re disrupting the synergy of the entire community.
Development Threats in Nearby Neighborhoods
At virtually the same time the “5150” project was speeding towards approval in Gladstone Park, developers were salivating over three major parcels of land that were coming up for grabs within spitting distance of each other at Six Corners in Portage Park. At the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue, Cicero Avenue, and Irving Park Road, it was less than 2 miles south of Gladstone Park. Why should Gladstone Park residents concern itself with commercial real estate development in other Far Northwest Side communities? The reasons are many.
Nobody wants to think about zoning laws (boring!), but in times of out-of-control growth, they’re crucial. At their most basic level, zoning laws give assurances that homeowners won’t wake up one morning and find, say, a gas station being built next door. On a higher level, zoning laws determine the shape of a neighborhood and how it feels to live in it. It’s the whole idea of a planned community. Gentrification and “upzoning” (or “downzoning’) areas to levels that allow for more intense development are real threats to Gladstone Park. If the community has any one mantra about its future growth, it would be “Stick to the Zoning.”
Telling Gladstone Park’s Story
It’s time to put Gladstone Park on the map. The community has history, culture, and tradition that runs so deep and so rich that it’s worthy of a movie. But its story has sat untold during its entire existence. Indeed, this website has been the first attempt to put its attributes all together with a nod to its roots. Its lack of identity has put Gladstone Park at risk. Because nobody’s defined the who, what, where, why, and how of the community, it’s been hard to put together a strong, coherent response to some of the problems it faces. In business parlance, it’d be told to establish a brand. In plain words, it needs a good PR campaign to broadcast its message to the city and the world.