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Head Of Beverly Area Planning Association Reflects on Her First 100 Days

By Howard Ludwig | August 3, 2015 5:39am
 Margot Burke Holland was named executive director of the Beverly Area Planning Association on March 31. The Beverly native reflected on her role and the importance of the neighborhood group 100 days after taking the job.
Margot Burke Holland was named executive director of the Beverly Area Planning Association on March 31. The Beverly native reflected on her role and the importance of the neighborhood group 100 days after taking the job.
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DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig

MORGAN PARK — Margot Burke Holland is often asked to define the role of the Beverly Area Planning Association.

Holland was named executive director of the neighborhood group on March 31. One hundred days after taking the job, she reflected a bit and offered an answer for curious residents.

"What does BAPA do? Everything," said Holland, a lifelong Beverly resident and former liaison to the mayor's office for the Chicago Public Library.

Holland helped launch the One Book, One Chicago program while at the library. She also worked as the media coordinator for Hillary Clinton’s senatorial bid and was on President Bill Clinton’s advance team.

Howard Ludwig says it's been a quick start for Holland:

In the years before landing the top job with the planning association, Holland focused on raising her children, Zoey, 11, Brady, 7, and Phoebe, 5. She also found time to support Beverly Arts Center’s BAC Challenge, raising funds for Chantal’s Studio in memory of her sister, local artist Chantal Burke.

Holland jumped back into the workforce just as the 70-year-old association was preparing to host its three biggest events. The Beverly Hills/Morgan Park Home & Garden Tour happened two weeks after she started. One week after that, the group hosted the Ridge Run — its biggest fundraiser.

The starting gun for Beverly Hills Cycling Classic fired just six weeks after Holland was given the keys to her office at 1987 W. 111th St. in Morgan Park.

"It's difficult because you can't effect too much change, because it really is a moving train," Holland said of her whirlwind introduction to the job.

Still, Holland said she's learned from the events. She said the home tour saw a surge of interest this year, perhaps fueled by a Frank Lloyd Wright house included for the first time as part of the annual tour.

"We ran out of booklets," Holland said.

As for the Ridge Run, she said runners can expect some changes next year. A new race director, Connor Kelly, has been named, and organizers are working to minimize the number of street closures required for the race.

The Ridge Run was originally staffed by volunteers, but paid traffic managers are now required. Reducing the number of these traffic managers by altering the route will improve the bottom line, Holland said.

As for programs, Holland also is taking a hard look at the annual Snowflake Ball. This formal gala was resurrected in 2012. But after an initial resurgence, it may need to be retooled or scrapped for lack of support, she said.

Holland also is considering changes to the group's monthly newspaper The Villager. The free publication has already reduced costs by relying on the post office for delivery.

The newspaper may be divided into sections that better reflect the association's four focus areas: housing/property preservation, public safety, education and small business retention.

These same focus areas will be reflected on a new website that will debut Sept. 15. The site will continue to evolve after being launched, but a fresh online presence is sorely needed, Holland said.

She has also been working to put the association back on the front lines in terms of neighborhood advocacy. Holland cited the group's work in helping to remove a group of squatters living in the 19th Ward, helping to increase the hours for families to swim at the pool in Kennedy Park and pushing for Divvy bikes in the neighborhood.

"I think it's important that BAPA show its value to the community," Holland said.

She added that the petition to bring Divvy bikes has spawned an effort to add bike lanes to Walden Parkway. These dedicated bike routes would link the shopping districts along the Metra tracks on 99th Street, 103rd Street and 107th Street.

"What we kind of lack in Beverly is your traditional downtown," said Holland, adding that a bike path along the railroad tracks could bring a similar feel and spur foot traffic.

Holland said she's learning from other local organizations, including the Logan Square Neighborhood Association. She hopes to implement a similar program started by this North Side group that brings parents into public schools to work as teacher aides for two-hour stints.

"The idea is to foster civic involvement," said Holland, adding that participants often graduate to local school councils, park district boards or other neighborhood groups.

Holland believes all of this will help to improve membership in the association. The group has 1,000 members, down from about 2,500 just nine years ago.

Indeed, the Beverly Area Planning Association saw its greatest support in the late 1960s, as white flight threatened the neighborhood and the group organized efforts to ease residents' fears concerning integration.

Yet she believes her efforts haven't gone unnoticed and seemed encouraged for the future of the association.

"I feel a lot of support from people," she said.

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