‘Chicago Tonight’ in Your Neighborhood: Logan Square

It’s been two years since Chicago got a new mayor. When Lori Lightfoot was sworn into office, she became the first Black woman to hold the job. 

For the latest in our community reporting series, we visit Lightfoot’s neighborhood on the Northwest Side.

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In recent decades, Logan Square has developed a reputation for being hip, with trendy shops and businesses along Milwaukee Avenue and stately homes and parks along the boulevards. 

Because it’s the home of Lightfoot, it’s also become a frequent spot for protests.

Dozens of community and social justice groups gathered near Lightfoot’s house Thursday evening, calling on the mayor to enact a wide range of policies like community oversight of the police. 

“We need a mayor that is focused on equity. She committed to reforming the police. That has not happened, in fact they are worse in Chicago … we need a mayor that’s going to show up for the most marginalized communities,” said Tanya Watkins, executive director of Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), one of the protest’s organizers.  

Video: Watch our full interview with the Rev. Marcus Guerra and Tanya Watkins.

Earlier Thursday, just blocks from the mayor’s house in Unity Park, the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and other groups held an action calling for an elected school board.

The association says an elected board is about ensuring that community voices are heard in education policy, one of many issues they’ve taken on in Logan Square.

Another is mutual aid during the pandemic. The association says it has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to residents in need.

“When the government failed to provide safety nets, especially for undocumented immigrants, our mothers and our school mentors and our young people, we started raising funds and started getting families emergency cash assistance,” said Juliet De Jesus Alejandre, the organization’s executive director. 

Also with the Neighborhood Association is Monica Espinoza, who coordinates the group’s parent mentorship program.

She says she still has hope for Lightfoot and considers her a strong Black woman — they met once, and she told the mayor they’re nearly neighbors. The mayor called her “homie.”

The mother of four says she wants Lightfoot to remember that.

Espinoza has lived in Logan Square since she moved there from Mexico 23 years ago. 

The area’s changed in that time; three-story homes have gone up where there used to be vacant lots. But neighbors she used to know moved out because they couldn’t afford it.

“The neighborhood is changing, it’s becoming very different, but you still can hear gunshots in the corner near my house ... people are still getting murdered,” she said. “It’s something that happens almost all the time, that you kind of get used to it.”

Libby Julia-Vasquez also grew up in Logan Square, though she also says she couldn’t afford it when she tried to come back after moving away for work.

She works for the Bickerdike Development Corporation, which manages more than a dozen affordable housing units in Humboldt Park, West Town and Logan Square.

The group’s latest project: transforming a parking lot in Logan Square into a 100-unit apartment building, every one of which will be affordable.

Bickerdike expects to soon open applications for potential tenants who must be within 60% of the area median income, or about $55,000 a year for a family of four. 

And it’s right in the heart of Logan Square, within spitting distance of the Blue Line.

One business that had been a Logan Square staple is City Lit Books, which closed during the pandemic. Now it’s poised to reopen under new ownership, as early as mid-June.

Former librarian Stephanie Kitchen says the pandemic made her realize that you only live once, and it’s been her longtime dream to own a bookstore — even if it’s a dicey time to open a small business.

As people work from home, Kitchen says she hopes they recognize the need to support their local stores if they want somewhere to walk to, to visit, to discover.

“Just having a place for the community, that’s really what it’s about. Building community and having people just get together,” Kitchen said. 

Video: Watch our interview with Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa of the 35th Ward.

Community Reporting Series

“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re hitting the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we’ve been and what we’ve learned by using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in red represent our series COVID-19 Across Chicago; blue marks our series “Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood.

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