“Our residents need more choices in local retail and restaurants, and we need to extend the business day” - Ald. John Arena
By Valeria Fanelli
Ald. John Arena said he wants to develop more dining and entertainment options in the 45th ward as part of his effort to revitalize the business district there.
Arena said vacancies and stagnation in the business district have been a persistent problem in the area.
“Our residents need more choices in local retail and restaurants, and we need to extend the business day,” said Arena.
The alderman said he wants to use incentives to bring more and better businesses to the ward, located on the city’s Northwest Side.
He is working on the ward’s public art initiative and is trying to beautify the business district more so potential investors will be attracted to the area.
The public arts project is called Arts Alive 45.
“Arts Alive 45 has made significant progress in beautifying our businesses districts to make them more attractive to potential tenants,” Arena said.
Business improvement is a big focus for Arena. He has committed more than $1 million in Small Business Improvement Funding (SBIF) in the 45th Ward area TIF districts.
Arena recently hosted an Enterprise Fair to bring all government agencies offering assistance and financing to small business.
“I also launched a small business incubator, which uses TIF dollars to provide training and education to small businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Arena.
Arena also wants to improve the ward by reducing crime.
“I believe firmly in partnerships between communities and their police to achieve the kinds of outcomes needed to ensure public safety. I work to engage people every day in the safety and care of their neighborhoods,” said Arena.
The alderman is working to ensure that local district commanders have the resources they need to protect the residents of the 45th ward. He is working with the local CAPS office to engage citizens on issues in their neighborhood.
“We have the lowest crime rates in the city based on city statistics. Our challenge is to maintain that standard in an era of strained resources,” said Arena.
Grazyna Pituch, mother of a 2-year-old daughter and resident of the 45th ward, said she likes the way the alderman is taking care of the neighborhood. She often brings her daughter to Jefferson Park and said she considers it pretty safe.
Pituch said she is most concerned about safety when she is at the park with her daughter, Julia.
“Sometimes there are people seated here, and I don’t know who they are,” said Pituch regarding some homeless people seated around the park.
Pituch said she would like police to control the area and make it safer for people who just want to spend some time with their kids at the park.
The alderman, who won last February’s election by only 30 votes, said his goal is to establish and maintain an open and accountable ward office because residents and businesses want and need to be heard.
“During the campaign, I heard again and again how people would call the former alderman’s office and never hear back, that they felt the office was not a place they could go to get their concerns heard. I changed that on Day One,” he said.