LINCOLN SQUARE — As Chicago rang in 2014, the Polar Vortex dominated the news cycle, but winter finally thawed, and talk eventually returned to more important topics, like parking.
Whether good, bad or just plain odd, there's never a dull story on the Lincoln Square beat. Here's a look at a completely subjective top 10 from 2014:
1. Hello, Goodbye: Small businesses lend character to Chicago's neighborhoods. We welcomed a number of newcomers in 2014, including Ravenswood Q, which kicked things off in January by choosing to debut on the coldest day of the year. We also covered the bows of: Templestowe Pub, Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club, Q Brothers from the folks at Merz, RoscoeBooks, SiFu and Baker Miller, among others. But for every new business gained, it seemed we lost one as well — witness Laughing Bird, which bore the distinction of opening and closing in the same year. We also bid adieu to Angel Food Bakery, La Bocca Della Verita, Troquet (and then Mangal), Lollipop Seeds, Underbar, Endgrain and Piggy Toes.
2. The Sinking of Fanta Sea: Neighbors complained ... and complained ... and complained that Fanta Sea Restaurant & Lounge on Lawrence Avenue was actually operating as an illegal nightclub. Hauled in front of the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, the business' owner ultimately surrendered his license and Fanta Sea is no more.
3. NEIU "Land Grab": Northeastern Illinois University's plan to build student housing on a stretch of Bryn Mawr ran afoul of its North Park neighbors, particularly the property owners who would have their homes and businesses displaced by the dorms. NEIU invoked eminent domain and its petition is working its way through the courts.
4. It's Always About Parking: Chicago has a parking problem — at least that was the message delivered at multiple zoning meetings held in 2014. Whether the development in question was a mosque, a cider house or transit-oriented apartments, neighboring residents always turned out to object on the grounds of the potential for increased congestion and stress on already scarce parking spaces.
5. What Goes Up Must Come Down: In June, the Chicago Department of Transportation unveiled its plan to tear down the Western-Belmont overpass and replace it with a grade-level intersection in 2015. Though neighbors aren't completely thrilled with the prospect of losing the flyover, the bridge's demolition can't come soon enough — it's already shedding chunks of concrete.
6. What's in a Name?: Everything, according to alumni of Gordon Tech. Hundreds packed a community forum in January to speak out against a proposal to change the school's name. Less than two months later, the school's board announced that Gordon Tech would now be known as DePaul College Prep.
7. Machete Attack on Brown Line: An attack at the Kedzie Brown Line station was all the more disturbing to many due to the weapon used in the assault — a machete. The victim was rushed to the hospital with a gaping head wound that required 31 stitches to close. Four adult offenders were arrested and charged, along with two 15-year-old boys and a 15-year-old girl.
8. Petty Theft: It was all tricks and no treats for one Roscoe Village homeowner, who had a decorative Halloween pumpkin stolen off her porch two nights in a row. The thief's antics were caught on security camera and shared online. "I hope some public shaming will do him good," said the homeowner.
9. You've Got Mail, Or Possibly Not: A North Park man went to take out the trash and discovered his bin was already full — of mail. "The whole neighborhood's mail was in the dumpster," he said. Postal employees retrieved the mail — much of it city sticker renewal notices — and it was eventually delivered. According to a spokesman for the Postal Service, such lapses by mail carriers are rare.
10. Early and Often: The American Planning Association chose Lincoln Square as one of 10 finalists for the organization's Great Places People's Choice Award. When the votes were tallied, Appleton, Wis., emerged the victor, which had some bemoaning Chicago's inability to stuff a ballot box.
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