‘Chicago Tonight’ in Your Neighborhood: Lisle

Nestled between Wheaton and Naperville in the western suburbs, Lisle is home to The Morton Arboretum, the North American Pizza and Culinary Academy and the Bavarian Lodge.

Like the rest of the area, Lisle has experienced health and economic challenges throughout the pandemic, though the impacts of COVID-19 have not been felt as severely as in other communities.

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“December was our fifth highest sales tax revenue month in 16 years,” said Lisle Mayor Chris Pecak. “The latest report that was received, which was March 2021, was our third highest sales tax revenue month. Our businesses have persevered. They’ve done pretty well.”

Pecak says that’s because the neighborhood rallied around businesses, and because the village did what it could to support local organizations, like creating a grant program.

Some people started businesses in Lisle during the pandemic. In April, Chris Marks opened Dinner Ready, which offers chef-created meals for customers to take home and reheat. 

“The pandemic probably helped us to start off with as far as people not wanting to get out there and have those cuisines that they love,” Marks said. “They can bring it home, and they can still get all the flavor profiles that they’re looking for. They can get all the flavors they’re looking for, the seasoning, and they don’t have to actually go to a dining room, tip the waiter, pay for parking.”

Suburban Sellers’ Market

Like other parts of the suburbs, the housing market in Lisle has been booming, said Debbie Pawlowicz of DPG Real Estate in Lisle. It’s been a seller’s market since April 2020, and some homes get up to nine or 10 offers.

“We immediately had the frenzied market. People were falling all over themselves to get houses,” Pawlowicz said. “That’s when you would see all the crazy offers and contingencies that were being waived and people selling their souls to get homes.”

Rosemary Gallaway and her family sold their home a year earlier than planned to take advantage of the seller’s market.

“Obviously if you’re in a home for 20 years, which we were in our home. There’s a lot of memories, there’s a lot of history and it’s really hard to leave,” Gallaway said.

She said it was an emotional decision for her family, but they’re glad they did it. They’re now building a home in Tennessee and renting an apartment in Lisle while their children finish school.

Lisle, which is home to 23,000 residents, is in DuPage County, where as of Thursday nearly 54% of adults are fully vaccinated and 57% have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Our vaccine roll out has been very successful; we've vaccinated over a million people,” said Sam Tornatore, president of the DuPage County Board of Health. “About half of which are DuPage County residents, and the other half are from other counties who either work here and live somewhere else or came here because we had them available.”

Video: Watch our full interview with Sam Tornatore.

One bright spot during the pandemic was the opening of an inclusive playground for all abilities at the Sea Lion Aquatic Center, said Jon Pratscher, superintendent of the Lisle Park District.

“Based on your abilities or disabilities, it doesn't matter,” Pratscher said. “You’re able to access the playground fully. There’s a lot more detail for it, if you can’t make it to the top, there’s play features at the bottom. Once you get in and are discovering everything there is it just facilities fun play and safe play for everyone.”

‘Human+Nature’ at The Morton Arboretum

The Morton Arboretum is a key attraction in Lisle, bringing residents from across the state to the area.

At the end of May, the Arboretum opened its “Human+Nature” exhibit, which features five installations that are about 15 to 26 feet tall. Created by South African artist Daniel Popper, the exhibit is designed to highlight the connections between people and nature.

“This is Daniel’s conception,” said Sarah Sargent, manager of interpretation and exhibits at the Morton Arboretum. “We talked to him in 2019 about coming here and some work that could resonate with various landscapes and places he found beautiful. We riffed on the idea of humans and nature being interconnected so they're all a little evocative, a little symbolic. They look like wood, but they’re made out of concrete."

Video: Watch our full interview with Sarah Sargent.

This is the arboretum’s largest exhibit to date. Previously, the outdoor museum featured its Troll Hunt exhibit, which began in 2019.

Visitors can access the exhibit through timed-entry tickets to the arboretum.

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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