BRIDGEPORT — Neighborhood borders in the city have long been in dispute, prompting barstool arguments and social media spats.
Now there’s a definitive answer to at least one border battle, thanks to a $500,000 sign marking where Bridgeport begins (and Canaryville ends.)
Or, if you prefer, where Canaryville begins (and Bridgeport ends.)
Fashioned after the City of Chicago flag, new signs on a viaduct on Halsted Street just south of Pershing Road welcome motorists and pedestrians into the South Side neighborhoods — Bridgeport headed north, Canaryville for those headed south.
The signs, installed last month, appear to be made of iron and steel, with the flag’s iconic red stars backlit by red lights.
A spokesman for the city’s Department of Transportation said construction costs for the signs totaled $553,750. It’s part of a larger, $2.7 million Halsted Street Streetscape program that aims to spruce up the Halsted corridor between 36th and 41st streets.
All of the costs were paid for using money from the Stockyards Annex TIF. Tax increment financing is a tool used by the city to aid redevelopment of blighted areas. When property values rise, the land owner still pays higher taxes but the extra money — the increment — is sent to a TIF fund, and not to taxing bodies such as school districts.
Decisions on how TIF money is spent are made by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office, typically with input from the local alderman.
Online feedback about the new neighborhood signs has been mostly positive — the 5,900-strong Bridgeport Chicago Facebook group's post elicited 41 comments and counting. "Cool," says one poster. Says another: "Go at night cause it lights up."
But one sniped, "Isn't that a great use of your tax dollars????"
Tom Tresser, a civic activist and vocal critic of the city's use of TIF money, slammed the construction of the South Side signs as a misuse of taxpayer cash.
"Even if you could say that area is blighted by whatever definition you care to use, how does building a sign fix blight?" he asked.
The signs may actually fuel neighborhood rivalries.
Old timers say Bridgeport's borders predate the construction of the Dan Ryan Expressway and include the eastern slice of Armour Square as part of Bridgeport.
Some say Bridgeport's western boundaries extend past Bubbly Creek — the river's notorious south fork — to Ashland Avenue and encompass parts of McKinley Park. You might even hear that Armour Square is part of Chinatown.
At least everyone seems to agree that Bridgeport ends at Pershing Road because that's where Canaryville starts, and there's no mixing up the two.
Belinda Markunas, a member of the Bridgeport Facebook group, put it this way in a post:
"Just think, as soon as you cross under the viaduct to the other side, it looks soooo much better."