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Bridgeport Year in Review: 5 Stories That Mattered in 2015

By Ed Komenda | December 28, 2015 5:44am
 Ald. Patrick D. Thompson at Bridgeport's Got Beef Challenge.
Ald. Patrick D. Thompson at Bridgeport's Got Beef Challenge.
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DNAinfo/Ed Komenda

BRIDGEPORT — This past year in the neighborhood has been one of building, rebuilding and — in some cases — rebirth.

Here are five stories that shaped one of South Side’s most storied neighborhoods:

1. 11th Ward Elections:

It was a story of the insider versus the outsider. The 11th Ward aldermanic elections pitted Patrick Daley Thompson, the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, against John Kozlar, a neighborhood kid from Canaryville with big dreams of doing some good on the South Side. After campaigning on the redevelopment of Halsted Street, the neighborhood’s main artery, Thompson became the latest Daley to get a job at City Hall, beating Kozlar with 58 percent of the vote.

2. Thompson Takes Over:

During his first six months in office, Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson kept busy, making public appearances at neighborhood meetings — like CAPS and the Bridgeport Alliance, which fought hard for the reinstatement of the 31st Street bus and won — always toting a pen and paper to jot down the concerns and questions of local folks. By most accounts, Thompson has been far more visible than the man who came before him, Ald. James Balcer. During his early days in the 11th Ward, Thompson spent a lot of time giving tours to developers interested in putting money into a much-needed makeover of the Halsted Street corridor, stretching from Canaryville through Bridgeport and Pilsen. When Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed for a huge property tax hike in the city’s upcoming budget, Thompson held a community forum to gauge the neighborhood’s feelings on the $600-million hike. Thompson eventually voted “yes,” a move he said could help “right the ship.”

3. Neighborhood Crime:

While the rest of the city was talking about Emanuel's property tax hike, Bridgeport folks were asking Ald. Thompson to put more police on the streets. Though police officers and detectives from Deering District headquarters reported steadily low crime statistics month after month at neighborhood CAPS meetings, local folks didn’t want to take any chances. One band of citizens from Bridgeport’s Neighborhood Watch went as far as roving the streets in their own cars several times a night, keeping tabs on trouble spots, graffiti and gang activity. 

4. Marszewski Mania

Ed and Mike Marszewski, the Bridgeport brothers with their footprints all over the neighborhood, have been busy this past year. Between the ongoing expansion of Maria’s Packaged Goods, the launch of Lumpen Radio at the Co-Prosperity Sphere gallery, a freshly-signed lease on a warehouse for a new Marz Brewing Company brewery and Bridgeport’s first-ever “Bridgeport’s Got Beef” challenge, it’s difficult to deny these movers and shakers have been out to make a difference in one of the South Side’s legendary neighborhoods.

5. Bridgeport Boathouse

For the neighborhood’s outdoors enthusiasts, it was big news when the Chicago Park District announced it would break ground on the long-awaited, Jeanne Gang-designed boathouse in August. The $5.7 million facility arrived as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plans to bring boathouses to the Chicago River and expand recreation on the waterway. The ensuing wait for construction crews to complete the 19,000-square-foot boathouse got the minds of many locals turning. One group in particular, headed by Pilsen resident James Burns, has been meeting every couple weeks to form a Park Advisory Council — a body tasked with shaping the vision of the boathouse.

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