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Wicker Park/Bucktown Year in Review: 5 Stories That Mattered to Locals

By Alisa Hauser | December 30, 2013 8:04am
 A "dooring" epidemic, a boutique hotel, "gutter punks" and the Chop Shop were among year's key moments.
The 5 Things That Mattered: Wicker Park 2013
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WICKER PARK — From long-in-the-pipeline projects finally set into motion to controversial issues that got people talking, 2013 was a busy and eventful year in the changing neighborhoods of Wicker Park and Bucktown.

Here are a few of the highlights.

1.  Northwest Tower's Next Chapter: After years of talk, plans to transform a 12-story vintage office building at 1600-26 N. Milwaukee Ave. into a luxury boutique hotel were announced in September. In November, developers from Convexity Partners said they hope the complex, which will include a diner and an adjacent converted warehouse offering "shared rooms," will open sometime in 2015.

Though the renovation means most of the Landmark tower's tenants including a sex offender treatment center must move, even the wife of Victor Maslon, who operated the tower's hand-cranked elevator for more than 25 years, agreed "it's time." 

 Plans are underway to convert the Northwest Tower at 1600 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park into a boutique hotel sometime in 2015.
Plans are underway to convert the Northwest Tower at 1600 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park into a boutique hotel sometime in 2015.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

Read all "tower-to-hotel" coverage here.

2. 'Dooring Epidemic' Along Milwaukee Avenue's 'Hipster Highway:' The crashes are adding up along a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue that some have dubbed "a hipster highway." In February, 27-year-old bike messenger Dustin Valenta suffered serious injuries in a hit-and-run, while in June, Colin Croom, 22, was "doored" in the same month that the City Council passed a new bicycle safety ordinance. The latest crash involved a furniture deliveryman and a fitness instructor that was cycling to his job at a Downtown gym when he was hit.

Read all dooring coverage here.

3. "Gutter Punk" Summer Home Sparks Controversy: As sure as the swallows return every spring to San Juan Capistrano, bands of homeless twenty-somethings began trickling into the area in May. Their presence led to violence against them, as well as in-fighting. By August, an alleged theft of a transient's dog by a Chicago Police officer further complicated the group's relationship with the community. A few days before Thanksgiving, Jimmy Lee Blank, 26, who'd spent part of the summer in Wicker Park with his dog, Dassa Pit, died in a bathroom stall in New York.

Read all gutter punk coverage here.

4. Chop Shop and 1st Wards Events Open: After decades of sitting empty, a neglected auto garage just west of the Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection was revived. In a three-part punch, the Chop Shop offers a butcher shop/deli, steakhouse and event space dubbed The 1st Ward. The new player wasted no time introducing itself to locals and has already been host to the weekly Sunday Dose Market, the "Big Buck Hunters" World Championship, an awards night hosted by Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) and, next up, a Donut Fest.

Read Chop Shop and 1st Ward Events coverage here.

5. Longtime Neighborhood Fixture Dies: Marcella Juszynski, a 90-year-old World War II Labor camp survivor and resident of Bucktown since 1954, died on her front porch over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. 

Juszynski was born Oct. 22, 1922 and worked for many years at a YMCA at Ashland Avenue and Division Street (which also had a big year with the opening of an 11-story commuter-friendly apartment tower offering 99-units and no parking). Juszynski was known to pick through trash on her daily walks and once recovered a stolen purse that she gave to local beat cops. Juszynski was fond of approaching people on the sidewalks and advising them: "Don't get old!"