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School Overcrowding, Crime are Challenges Facing Lincoln Park, Aldermen Say

By Paul Biasco | February 10, 2014 9:09am
 Lincoln Park's aldermen, Scott Waguespack (32nd), Michele Smith (43rd) and Bob Fioretti (2nd) appeared at a luncheon at the Chicago History Museum on Feb. 6.
Lincoln Park's aldermen, Scott Waguespack (32nd), Michele Smith (43rd) and Bob Fioretti (2nd) appeared at a luncheon at the Chicago History Museum on Feb. 6.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

LINCOLN PARK — A state of the neighborhood assessment has the three alderman who represent Lincoln Park saying they are focused on the local business economy, crime and education.

At a luncheon held last week by the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) mentioned the planned annex for Lincoln Elementary and the "wall-to-wall" International Baccalaureate being instated at Lincoln Park High School as her two biggest educational achievements since taking office in 2011.

"My real priorities have been safety, education and local economic development," said Smith, whose ward covers the majority of Lincoln Park.

One issue facing the neighborhood is how to handle an overcrowded student population at Lincoln Elementary without the help of DePaul University, which leased eight classrooms to Lincoln for the 2013-2014 school year.

DePaul had been leasing space in a university building on a one-year arrangement. In November, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the construction of a three-story, 19-room annex at Lincoln Elementary, 615 W. Kemper Place. However, it is not expected to be open until the 2015-2016 school year. 

Smith said she and school officials were working on a solution.

On the crime front, Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), whose ward covers a sliver of the neighborhood, said vacancies were not being filled in North Side police districts.

He said new officers who are being hired to fill vacancies are being assigned to hot spots on the South and West sides.

"In the north end in the Wrigleyville area, crime is rampant," Fioretti said. "That's coming into this area and we've got to be careful."

Smith said she has made it a priority to strengthen the court advocacy program in the neighborhood to ensure criminals facing charges are sentenced to the fullest extent. The program encourages volunteers to keep track of neighborhood crime, including attending court cases.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) represents the western portion of the neighborhood, including the Finkl Steel site, which he said will be a major issue in 2014.

"It's an issue that is going to affect all of us," he said of the steel site.

The steel plant is in the process of moving and the roughly 28-acre site could dictate the future of manufacturing and industry in the neighborhood along the river.

Another project Waguespack hopes to get back on track in 2014 is the Fullerton Avenue Streetscape plan, which seeks to beautify and reinvigorate a stretch of Fullerton starting at Ashland to Racine.

The project would include resurfacing, sidewalk widening, curb and gutter upgrades, landscaping, decorative lighting, community identifiers, and stamped crosswalks.

It was put on the table before the economic downturn in the late 2000s, but lost funding from the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation, but Waguespack said those groups have been reconfiguring the money.

"I think it will become a gateway," Waguespack said.

The luncheon was held at the Chicago History Museum Feb. 6.