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North River Commission Changes Face of Albany Park

Albany Park has become one of Chicago’s hottest neighborhoods in which to dine and shop, a change that is due in great part to many years of community organizing and engagement led by the North River Commission (NRC).

Melissa McDaniel, Executive Director, North River Commission

NRC was founded on the belief that those who live and work in a community have the right and responsibility to make decisions for it. That belief is the driving force behind 45 years of successful neighborhood change.

In Albany Park, NRC has leveraged more than $300 million of reinvestment into the commercial area, created or retained 3,500 jobs, reduced the vacancy rate from 30 percent to 2 percent, and renovated more than 300 storefronts, more than any other group in the city.

But our work is not done. Through our two-year planning process called the Futures Forum, hundreds of community leaders representing thousands more came together to set forth visions and goals in the areas of economic development, education, housing, arts and culture and parks and open spaces.

For years, our economic development efforts have been at the forefront of community improvement. Business and community leaders envisioned our commercial area as a premier destination for shopping, dining, cultural attractions and entertainment on Chicago's Northwest side.

We are working hard to achieve that vision by expanding business resources, beautifying storefronts, marketing our commercial districts, entertainment and cultural attractions and increasing parking options.

In collaboration with our development affiliates, the Lawrence Avenue Development Corporation and the Albany Park Chamber of Commerce, NRC has launched two exciting new initiatives this year: a Multi-Ethnic Sculpture Garden and the Albany Park Retail Marketing Campaign.

A storefront renovation completed by the North River Commission and the City's Small Business Improvement Fund transformed Noon O Kabab restaurant ...

... with results that are hard to miss.

The retail campaign creates a cohesive identity for the growing number of ethnic shops, award-winning restaurants and bakeries and links them with arts and cultural venues that are treasured locally but are not well known outside the community, including the Cambodian Killing Fields Museum and the Albany Park Theatre Project. When it’s completed, NRC’s Multi-Ethnic Sculpture Garden will join that list.

NRC continues to lead the charge on storefront renovations. We turn out 25 completed projects every year through the City’s Small Business Improvement Fund. This plays a vital part in leveraging reinvestment into the community and makes Albany Park an attractive place to shop, dine and live. From new awnings and signage to lighting and storefront windows without grates, we are changing the face of Albany Park.

NRC understands that its work in economic development plays a larger role in improving the community as a whole. So the next time you’re in Albany Park for a bite to eat or to see a new museum exhibit, know that the new storefront awnings and new parks you passed are just a few of the concrete ways our community is turning dreams and visions into reality.

This article first appeared in the Winter-Spring 2008 issue of LISC/Chicago's newsletter, Working Capital, which can be found (along with previous issues) by clicking here.

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