BRIDGEPORT — It was year of beginnings and endings in Bridgeport, Chinatown and McKinley Park.
Here are five things that shaped the South Side neighborhoods in 2013.
1. The Warehouse Inferno: Hollywood couldn't write a more quintessential Chicago story. There was a spectacular fire, a crooked developer, heroic firefighters and subzero temperatures all playing a part in one of one of the biggest fire responses in the Chicago Fire Department's history, which began with a big blaze within a vacant warehouse in the 3700 block of South Ashland Avenue and ended with photographers shooting the frozen, crumbling ruins of a vacant warehouse owned by a developer imprisoned for attempting to bribe an alderman.
2. Artist Carissa Hinz Killed: A barista and graphic artist, 21-year-old Carissa Hinz seemed to personify everything about the evolving Bridgeport neighborhood — she was friendly, artistic and community-minded. Hinz's life was cut tragically short in June when a car struck her outside a party honoring the neighborhood's artists and visionaries at Co-Prosperity Sphere, the art gallery where she volunteered. The case remains unsolved, and Carissa's friends continue to canvass the neighborhood looking for answers.
3. Red Line Reconstruction: When plans were announced to overhaul 10 miles of track on the CTA Red Line's South Branch for $425 million, South Side commuters expected a summer's worth of major disruptions. What they got instead was a smooth shuttle system, five months of free rides and quicker ride to work and back.
Now, with the project wrapped up — on time and within budget, CTA officials say — the Red Line South Branch will shave 20 minutes off the round-trip from 95th to the Loop, a construction feat deemed by one transportation expert to be "almost perfect."
4. Chinatown Changing: With the neighborhood celebrating its centennial anniversary last year, 2013 was all about looking forward. And so far, the future looks pretty bright, with the creation of a brand new boathouse along the Chicago River to draw in tourists, the construction of a big field house for residents and the unveiling of a new, architecturally stunning library that's expected to open in 2015.
5. Schools Spared: When CPS considered closing seven schools in the district's Southwest Side Pershing Network, activists and parents fought back. Armed with protest signs and petitions, they crammed into standing-room only forums to state their cases for neighborhood public schools. Apparently, CPS was listening — most of the schools were spared, including McClellan Elementary, where teachers and parents rallied to save the school's autism cluster program.
But not everyone in the network was so lucky. Fuller Park's Parkman Elementary School, 245 W. 51st, is now closed and Dewey Elementary Academy of the Fine Arts, 5415 S. Union in Englewood, faces a turnaround, meaning the students got to come back but CPS replaced the faculty.