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The Very Bizarre Ways This Taxpayer-Funded Group 'Promoted' Lakeview

By Ariel Cheung | November 23, 2016 8:38am
 Chicago View will hand over control of roughly $800,000 in special service area tax money to the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce in 2017.
Chicago View will hand over control of roughly $800,000 in special service area tax money to the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce in 2017.
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LAKEVIEW — It was a weird, eclectic ride with Chicago View, the taxpayer-funded group that's been "promoting" Lakeview for decades, sometimes in the weirdest imaginable way.

So let's bid them adieu with a look back at the group's greatest hits — and misses.

The marketing organization will no longer oversee special service area money for central Lakeview, a annual sum of roughly $800,000 used for business promotion and development in Wrigleyville and near the Belmont "L" station.

Instead, Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce will handle the SSA, per a vote by officials and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) Friday, which means a lot of changes in the heart of Lakeview — for better or for worse.

RELATED: Bye 'Sad' Trees: Longtime Lakeview Promoters Booted After Decades Of Weird

Gone will be the "sad, hulking" Christmas trees tied to street poles. The chamber will prioritize infusing tens of thousands of dollars into safety programs, Maureen Martino, executive director of Lakeview East, said.

So as the year draws to a close and the neighborhood prepares for new management, we took a look back at the wacky, offbeat and unendingly creative campaigns from Chicago View — its hits, and its misses.

• Homely holiday decorations

When Chris Jessup, Tunney's communications director, told Hawthorne Neighbors about the SSA management change last week, resident Ellen Hughes had one question: "Can we say trees are not a requirement?"

Jessup assured the group, with a laugh, that "there will be no Christmas trees on light posts, not on the public way."

For two years, Central Lakeview Merchants Association placed some 600 Christmas trees on light poles across the neighborhood as part of its holiday decoration campaign.

Central Lakeview Merchants Association lined Lakeview streets with Christmas trees in 2013. Here, trees are tied to poles near the Belmont "L" stop. [DNAinfo/Serena Dai]

Tied to street poles and largely unadorned, the trees received mixed reactions.

"I think it was half-a**ed," Lakeview neighbor Michael Nicolson said of the trees in 2014. "The execution was not very good. It definitely does not make the neighborhood feel like it's a holiday."

While Central Lakeview donated a fraction of the trees to needy families, neighbors griped that the trees were a target for urinating dogs and a waste of taxpayers' money.

"People are getting a free tree," Isacson responded in 2013. "What do they care where the money comes from?"

The trees cost around $25,000 for each year Central Lakeview contracted Patch Landscaping to place them. In 2015, Chicago View only spent $6,000 of the $26,000 it allotted for holiday decorations. There were no trees that year.

• Puzzling promotions

What does a bearded baby have to do with promoting Lakeview businesses?

Last year, such a being graced the cover of Chicago View's "Businesses Collide" hardcover book, which was given out free to neighbors.

Inside, 56 businesses were paired off in Photoshopped sets, with each business listed at the top of the page. The bearded baby, for example, is a mashup of Little Beans Cafe in Bucktown and Firefly Salon in Lincoln Park. 

On another page, Nas Salon & Spa and Jerry's Auto Repair are represented by slip-joint pliers pulling a fingernail off a gory finger that oozes (fake) blood. Ouch.

Chicago View published a hardcover book, "Businesses Collide," which features mashups of Chicago businesses. [Screenshot/Chicago View]

Half the businesses in the book are located in the Chicago View special service area, while one in four are outside the Lakeview neighborhood. Its territory reached as far north as Wilmette and included businesses from Downtown, Hermosa and Edgewater.

Chicago View has published several books and guides geared at bringing more consumers to the neighborhood. The children's book "Charlie The Dog Goes Fishing" features the Chicago View mascot as he ventures to various Lakeview businesses. Other publications included a neighborhood dining guide and a cookbook with recipes from local restaurants.

The books are not necessarily published with SSA money, although Chicago View spent $54,506 of SSA money on print materials last year, its financial records show.

• Celebrate the neighborhood ... by leaving it

Some Chicago View promotions actually took neighbors away from Lakeview. In September, Chicago View sponsored a free trip to a Chicago Fire soccer game at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.

Another trip took neighbors to the Hancock Tower's Chicago 360 observation deck.

For St. Patrick's Day 2015, the association offered free tickets to the Art Institute for anyone who shared a selfie with a corned beef sandwich. The sandwich could be from anywhere — the promotion only required people share the photos with Chicago View on social media.

Throw money in the air — what could go wrong?

Renaming the organization Chicago View stemmed from its launch of a bi-monthly magazine by the same name. The magazine does not focus specifically on Lakeview, but highlights businesses on a citywide level.

To celebrate the magazine's second birthday last year, Chicago View released 50 paper airplanes with $50 bills attached in a bank parking lot in Lakeview.

Organizers hoped the money would be spent in nearby shops and restaurants, but the notion escaped at least one attendee, who said the event was too chaotic to get the message across.

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