LINCOLN SQUARE — The revival of Lawrence Avenue is heating up as several businesses have expressed interest in opening up shop in the neighborhood, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) said Tuesday.
Among the businesses eyeing a place on the strip are an unnamed brew pub looking at a location at Lawrence and Ravenswood and a new tenant that could soon take over the space vacated by the Chicago Ale House at 2200 W. Lawrence Ave.
Pawar revealed the news to members of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce Tuesday night at the annual State of the Neighborhood address.
The attraction is due in large part to the proposed Lawrence Avenue Streetscape, which Pawar said was out to bid for contractors. The area is slated for a total overhaul, with a proposed round of decorative lighting, planters and roadway renovations.
Mariano's Fresh Market, to be built in the footprint of the Sears parking lot, will come before City Council on Oct. 25, with developers hoping to break ground in four to five weeks.
When completed, the streetscape will "connect what you see in Lincoln Square onto Lawrence and into Andersonville," he said.
The development plan came as welcome news to business owners and local residents, who were also relieved to hear that Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th) was moving ahead with other aldermen to push for the transition to a ward remap.
O'Connor has signed a letter, authored by Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) — chairman of Council's Rules Committee, which oversaw the remap — that in effect declares the books closed on the process and begins the transition to the redrawn boundaries.
The letter will be released in the coming days and should "alleviate the lack of certainty people have," O'Connor said.
But he cautioned that the potential still existed for a legal challenge from aldermen who lost their wards in the remap.
Raining on this parade of positivity, State Rep. Greg Harris (D-13) delivered a sobering look at Illinois' finances.
Last year's backlog of $9 billion in unpaid bills has been reduced to $6 billion this year, but the state is still facing $90 billion in unfunded pension obligations. To stabilize what Harris termed "this house of cards," difficult decisions have to be made, including cutting resources for Medicaid.
"Are people going to suffer? Yes," he said. "The piper's going to have to be paid."
In the coming months Springfield is likely to begin the painful work of pension restructuring, a move Harris said was vital to the state's future health.
"There's never going to be money for education if everything's going toward unpaid bills and pensions."