JEFFERSON PARK — From a new runway at O'Hare to ongoing problems at the Portage Theater, Northwest Siders had a lot to talk about in 2013.
1. Portage Theater Closes: Eight months after buying the Portage Theater, owner Eddie Carranza abruptly shuttered the Six Corners landmark after Ald. John Arena (45th) said he would not allow Carranza to take over the liquor and public place of amusement licenses at the former movie palace based on the theater operator's pockmarked track record at the Congress Theater in Logan Square. Despite Carranza's promises that a new operator is poised to take over the Portage Park theater, the theater has been dark since May.
2. Fringe Festival Moves to Jefferson Park: After three years in Pilsen, the Chicago Fringe Festival boarded the CTA Blue Line and hopped off at Jefferson Park. The festival recorded its highest attendance in two years by showcasing all kinds of weird, off-beat and avant garde performances. The Fringe will return to Jefferson Park in 2014, no doubt adding fuel to the neighborhood's burgeoning art scene.
3. Two Overcrowded Schools Get Annexes: Throughout the Far Northwest Side, most schools are bursting with students because of an influx of families looking for affordable homes in a relatively safe area of the city, according to Chicago Public Schools data. Two of the most overcrowded — Wildwood Elementary School in Edgebrook and Oriole Park Elementary School in Norwood Park — learned they will get additions to ease the space crunch. Others, like Gladstone Park's Hitch Elementary School, are still waiting for solutions.
4. New O'Hare Runway Opens: A new runway opened at O'Hare Airport in October over the objections of residents in Sauganash, Forest Glen, Edgebrook and North Park. While federal officials said the new runway will make it safer for planes to take off and land at the airport, residents said the reconfiguration will turn the air over their homes — some of the most expensive in the city — into a "virtual railroad track in the sky" and lower property values.
5. Portage Park: Chicago's Pot Ticket Hot Spot: Police wrote more pot possession tickets in the Portage Park than anywhere else in town between August 2012 and April 1, 2013, a DNAinfo Chicago review of public records showed. Hide that stash, Portage Parkers.