BEVERLY — The year was marked with tragedy and triumph in Beverly, Mount Greenwood and Morgan Park. Here are five things that shaped the neighborhoods on the Far Southwest Side in 2015.
Her mother, Nadia Beazley, provided often heartbreaking updates Facebook of her eldest daughter's condition. In response, friends and neighbors decorated street poles and trees with purple and green ribbons as a show of support.
Homes and businesses also strung lights of the same colors in what became known as the Light It Up for Emily campaign. Purple and green eventually took over the Chicago skyline with buildings including Soldier Field, the Willis Tower and other landmarks joining the campaign.
Friends and neighbors also worked to make Emily's final days special. This included arranging a call from pop singer Taylor Swift on April 29. She was also made an honorary police officer on April 28 and had the street outside her home named in her honor.
2. Morgan Park Sports Center opens: The highly-anticipated indoor ice rink and gymnastics center at 11505 S. Western Ave. officially debuted on Sept. 12. The $18 million project is the largest investment the Chicago Park District has ever made in the 19th Ward.
The 64,000-square-foot center replaces a pair of long-vacant lots on the northeast and southeast corners of 115th Street and Western Avenue. The 2.5 acres of land housed a grocery store and adjacent gas station in the early 1980s.
3. Chicago fireman Daniel Capuano of Mount Greenwood dies in a warehouse fire: A smoky blaze in South Chicago claimed the life of the 42-year-old fireman on Dec. 14. He left behind a wife, Julie, and three children — Amanda, 16, Andrew, 13, and Nicholas, 12.
Thousands of firemen and emergency personnel gathered for the funeral services at St. Rita High School. The tearful sendoff was marked at the visitation with a walk through of firemen who gathered to pay respect to their fallen comrade.
In an unprecedented move, the players with the St. Jude Knights Hockey Club also held a walk-through in uniform. Capuano's sons play travel hockey for the team, and their dad was a volunteer coach who also tended to the team's off-ice training facility.
4. Signs of rebirth along 95th Street: The one-mile stretch of 95th Street that runs through Beverly has fallen on hard times and has a 20 percent vacancy rate. But there's renewed hope for the area as Barraco's has shown interest in opening a banquet hall at the site of the former library at 2105-2221 W. 95th St.
The Italian restaurant chain asked neighbors to sign a petition to allow alcohol sales at the proposed venue. At a meeting on Dec. 8, the necessary 62 registered voters from the surrounding blocks approved the request, allowing an area that has been "dry" since Prohibition to change its ways.
Downers Grove-based Advocate Health Care also signed a 10-year lease in October for the former Borders bookstore at 2210 W. 95th St. in Beverly. A medical facility specifically catering to the needs of seniors will replace the two-story bookstore that closed nearly five years ago.
5. Squatters booted from homes in Beverly and Morgan Park: It was revealed this summer that not only had a group of squatters moved into homes in Beverly and Morgan Park, but they were charging others rent.
The last of the four suspects were brought into custody in December, according to Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th). Prosecutors have said at least two of the men involved in the scam consider themselves Sovereigns or Moors — that is, people who don't recognize the U.S. government and feel "entitled to special privileges and immunities from federal and state law."
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