‘Chicago Tonight’ in Your Neighborhood: Ravenswood

Eight miles north from the Loop, manufacturing buildings, Victorian homes and small businesses line Ravenswood’s streets. The community is neighbored by North Center and Lincoln Square, and there’s much disagreement over where the three neighborhoods’ borders end and begin.

Interactive map: More from our community reporting series

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Small businesses and restaurants — like other communities — were hit hard by the pandemic, but many have begun to welcome back customers. While aware that the pandemic has eased, owners are mindful that it hasn’t ended, said Gene Wagendorf, Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.

“Costs for their supplies are double and triple what they were a year and a half ago, they’re running at half-staff and paying those folks for their overtime,” Wagendorf said. “It’s an exciting time but still a bit of a hectic one, so we’re really excited at the grace that residents have shown our businesses.”

Ravenswood used to be a manufacturing hub in the city. The Jane Addams Resource Corporation formed in 1985 to try to keep the jobs in the neighborhood. Since then, some manufacturing companies have left the neighborhood, with breweries and art studios taking their spot in the neighborhood’s industrial corridor.

Today, Jane Addams Resource Corporation provides free manufacturing job training to anyone interested, but particularly people who are underemployed or unemployed. Headquartered in Ravenswood, it also operates in Austin and Chatham. Amid the pandemic, the organization has seen more participants coming from industries impacted by coronavirus-related closures.

“Right now we are seeing folks who have been laid off from the hospitality industry, the restaurant industry,” said Regan Brewer-Johnson, president of Jane Addams Resource Corporation. “These are jobs that may or may not come back and they’re trying to get into a field that has long term stability so they can support their families.”

Video: Watch our full interview with Regan Brewer-Johnson.

Ravenswood’s industrial corridor has become known as Malt Row, recognized for its breweries and a distillery. One of the newest breweries to open on Malt Row is Urban Brew Labs. Co-founder James Moriarty says opening was a lifelong dream of his, and fellow brewers in the area helped make it happen.

“Especially in the summer, instead of people bar hopping we get people brewery hopping. Because the chamber’s done a great job of promoting the area, it’s become an attraction. We feed off of everyone else’s success, and now with the taproom hope to be able to contribute a little more to the neighborhood,” Moriarty said.

Ravenswood also has a healthy arts community. It is home to many small art spaces and printmaking shops and more well-known centers like the Lillstreet Art Center. Many studios exist in old manufacturing buildings.

The Chicago Glass Collective is among the studios in Ravenswood, which founder Leslie Speicher opened in 2012.

It offers a variety of classes — which start back up next week — and a workspace for artists like Chitra Panjabi, who’s been a member for two years.

“I feel we’re a space where we can meet people where they’re at and there’s always something for everyone,” Panjabi said. “And there’s such a community here at the Collective, which is one of the things I love about being a member and part of this space.”

Old Ravenswood Hospital Refurbished for Older Residents

Construction at the old Ravenswood Hospital is complete, transforming it into affordable housing for older residents. The building, now named Ravenswood Senior Living, includes both space for independent living and supportive living.

“For the low-income population in Chicago, the options really are as you get to be too old and frail to be in your own apartment, you’re really looking at going into a nursing home,” David Block of Evergreen Real Estate Group. “This facility provides a better option. It allows people to move seamlessly, within the same facility, from being in their own apartment to being still in their own apartment ... with a higher level of care.”

Chicago Housing Authority CEO Tracey Scott says this combination of services is the first project of its kind in the state, and could be a model for future efforts. Scott says a vacant building getting new life is good for the fabric of the neighborhood.

“That’s the only way that you can have decent, safe, and affordable housing is truly to have strong communities,” Scott said. “We have to be concerned with not only the housing itself, but what’s in the community: the green space, services, health care, food... and I shouldn’t forget, because we’re talking about senior living, but schools are critical for strong communities.”

Ald. Matt Martin of the 47th Ward, says the facility will be significant for the community.

“It’s 100% adaptable reuse of an existing building, so very environmentally sustainable as well as being that affordability that our community needs, particularly for our seniors,” Martin said.

Video: Watch our full interview with Ald. Matt Martin.

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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