Jewish Community Leaders Say Devon Avenue is 'Dormant', Not 'Dead'

“We’re committed to a beautiful West Rogers Park, meaning it doesn’t need to be a beautiful Jewish neighborhood,” said Shalom Klein, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park. (Nicole Cardos/MEDILL)

By Nicole Cardos

Business owner Avrom Fox said his religious bookstore Rosenblums World of Judaica is a social gathering spot.

“We have everything that one needs to celebrate the entire Jewish life cycle, from birth to death and all the holidays in between,” Fox said, adding that there are also books for those interested in the religion from a historical and cultural point of view.

The making of a Jewish monument from Nicole Cardos on Vimeo.

Now in its sixth year of residence in Skokie, Illinois, Rosenblums was previously located on Devon Avenue in West Ridge in Chicago. Fox said he purchased the store from its previous owner in 1990 at its Devon Avenue location, when the Jewish community was reflected in the storefronts on the now-majority South Asian shopping street.

For years now, businesses, like Rosenblums, that catered to the surrounding West Ridge Jewish community have been moving out—so much so, that the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park has named “the rebirth of Devon Avenue between California and Kedzie as a unique urban destination serving Jews throughout the city and suburbs” as one of the organization’s goals on its website.

Fox said he moved Rosenblums to follow the Jewish community that was migrating toward the suburbs, and because he considers Devon Avenue “dead” as a shopping district.

“Devon is no longer commercially viable,” he said.

But it’s not only Jewish-owned businesses that are closing or relocating. The CVS store and pharmacy at 2825 W. Devon Ave. announced its springtime closing late February. The decision was made in part of the company’s plan to shut down dozens of its storefronts.

“Everybody is dormant—we’re dormant now too,” said Irv Loundy, senior vice president of Banking Services and Community Relations at Devon Bank.

Loundy, an employee at Devon Bank since 1958, said he has seen tremendous change in the area. Loundy remembers Devon Avenue as a home to high-end ladies fashion and kosher delicatessens and grocery stores in the 1970s and 1980s. But as the community changed to include an Indian-Pakistani population, and nearby young Jewish families started relocating to surrounding suburbs, Jewish businesses followed suit.

What also pushed storeowners to move away from the area was the lack of parking space, said Loundy, who’s active in the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

“We need to create the presence and make it attractive for people to want to come here,” he said.

One of the ways to revitalize the area is to work on collaboration among the existing community groups, said Shalom Klein, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park.

The goal of JCCWRP is to advocate for and improve the lives of residents and businesses in West Ridge, commonly referred to as West Rogers Park.

Although the Jewish community has a longstanding history in the area, the organization isn’t only catering to that group of people, Klein said.

“We’re committed to a beautiful West Rogers Park, meaning it doesn’t need to be a beautiful Jewish neighborhood,” he said. “We want it to be a beautiful neighborhood which happens to be home to the Jewish community, and living and working together with many other cultures.”

After having conversations with West Ridge residents, Klein acknowledged that there was a need for an updated or new library in the area. The Northtown Branch of the Chicago Public Library located at 6435 N. California Ave. currently serves the community, but Klein said it’s outdated.

“The library is not equipped,” he said. “It doesn’t have the meeting space, the technology for kids to do their homework.”

So Klein and other JCCWRP organizers, along with members of other ethnic communities in West Ridge, recently launched a petition called LEARN—Library Enhancement And Renovation. After having earned thousands of signatures, LEARN has been approved to open a new library in West Ridge.

“So those are the types of things that by coming together, by organizing, we’re able to make a difference,” he said.

I Want To Make A Difference On Devon – Shabbat Message from JCCWRP President, Howard M. Rieger

When people ask me how things are going in West Rogers Park, I naturally focus upon the good news:  the new Magenta Sister Stores on Pratt & California; the just-announced plan for a new North Town Branch of the Chicago Public Library on Pratt & Western; the new park that will transform and beautify the corner of Devon & McCormick, and the new signage at Kol Tuv and Tel Aviv Bakery.  Other things are in the pipeline.  All real.  All good.

 

Then the conversation usually defaults to what can be done about Devon between California & Kedzie, which is not yet good enough.

 

With the Streetscape upgrade of the lighting and sidewalks and the addition of benches and other beautifying elements to the avenue, thanks to the effort of Alderman Debra Silverstein, the time to leverage those changes is now.

 

 

What can we do about the boarded-up former cleaners at 3024 W. Devon that has become a dismal symbol of abandonment?  What about the vacant double store just west of Citibank at Devon & California, with dirty and torn paper covering the windows, one of which is shattered?  What about the stores for rent whose owners are not actively marketing their shabby-looking properties and in some cases obstructing progress?  And what can be done to find new businesses willing to relocate to Devon?

 

The answer to the challenges we face on Devon is to redouble our efforts by broadening input and involvement from the community.   And that is just what we will do in the days and months ahead.

 

Do you want to be part of a  constructive movement to make a difference?  Join us in a sustained effort to work with Alderman Silverstein and other like-minded officials and residents to transform this section of Devon once and for all.

 

YES, COUNT ME IN.  I WANT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE ON DEVON!

 

Shabbat Shalom

Howard

412-303-4942

Appearance in court for Devon storefronts

This week was the first hearing in court regarding the vacant storefronts on Devon Avenue that were formerly home to Rosenblum’s Book Store. We have raised concerns about this property, including the tattered awnings, filthy windows, horrible upkeep and a lack of any response to inquires about renting the property. We appreciate Alderman Debra Silverstein’s role in asking the Building Department to inspect the properties and bring the owners to court. Our real estate committee played an active role in encouraging neighboring residents and business owners to attend the court case and make sure that the judge sees the community involvement on this issue. While the case has been continued, we look forward to the next hearing in early September. We will let you know the exact time and place in order that you might attend.

Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park

You Are Invited: Networking Reception on Devon

Networking Reception for Devon Merchants

Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park

Thursday, July 31st at 10:00am

Come and meet your fellow business people on Devon.
Find out what’s happening in the neighborhood…let’s work together to upgrade our street!
ALL businesses are invited!
When:           Thursday, July 31th, 2014
10:00 – 11:00 AM
Where:          Music House
2925 West Devon Avenue
Sponsored by the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park
Contact Shalom Klein, Executive Director, at sklein@GoWRP.org

AskTheExperts

"Ask The Experts" TODAY in West Rogers Park!

Please join us for this informative FREE event

ASK THE EXPERTS

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
2:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Devon Bank Conference Center
6445 North Western Avenue

AskTheExperts

Stop by to receive professional advice and guidance from specialists!

  • Real Estate
  • Law
  • Special Home Financing Programs
  • Estate Planning
  • Wealth Management
  • Free Energy Savings and Safety Devices
  • Debt Counseling
  • Retirement Community Living
  • Insurance

SHOP LOCALLY WITH DISCOUNT COUPONS FROM YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD STORES

For more information, call 773-423-2424

Brought to you by:
Devon Bank and the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park

JCC_RV-VERSIONS

Devon Merchants
Great Chicago

Network with Devon merchants on January 6, 2014!

It's my pleasure to invite you to the second meeting of the newly formed Devon Street Merchant Association of the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park. I hope you can attend and support our local businesses and merchants.

Our goal is to solicit feedback and ideas from our neighborhood businesses re: next steps and various initiatives to attract new business on Devon Street. It will be a great networking opportunity.

Please spread the word and invite your neighbors and contacts:
01/06/14 - 12 to 1:30pm
Great Chicago
3149 W. Devon Ave.
Chicago, IL

Light refreshments will be served - bring plenty of business cards. Free parking!

Additional information will soon be available on our NEW website - www.GoWRP.org

Hope to see you there!

Regards,

Shalom Klein
on behalf of the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park
Great Chicago

Kick-Off Event to Revitalize West Devon Launches “Storefront Makeover Contest,” Says Former Chicago Housing Commissioner

West Rogers Park' Devon Business Community
Dozens of business owners gathered together for the first ever meeting of the Devon Merchants, facilitated by the West Rogers Park Jewish Community Council

A Storefront Makeover Contest for Devon Avenue businesses between California and Kedzie will pay $2,500 to the winning storeowner, with cash prizes of $1,500 and $1,000 to the second and third place winners, respectively, announced Michael Schubert, a former Chicago commissioner of housing.

Schubert, special consultant to a committee of the West Rogers Park Jewish Community Council focused on strengthening West Rogers Park as a desirable neighborhood, unveiled the contest at a networking event for Devon Avenue merchants held July 30 at newly remodeled Ted’s Fresh Market, 2840 W. Devon.

“This is the first of many programs aimed at recreating Devon Avenue as an exciting international marketplace,” said Shalom Klein, community organizer and business consultant and vice president of Moshe Klein and Associates.

The program, featuring a continental breakfast, attracted some 20 storeowners, business people, and community activists who share a common goal of upgrading Devon Avenue.

“Communities go through stages,” said Schubert, who played a key role in the revitalization of Bucktown and Wicker Park. “First, cynicism, that things won’t get better. Then that gets chipped away and attitudes change as momentum builds.”

Howard Rieger of West Rogers Park, past president and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America, the national umbrella organization of federated Jewish philanthropies, who volunteered to convene the community-revitalization committee with Rabbi Leonard Matanky of Cong. KINS, said, “The Jewish community has a huge stake in preserving West Rogers Park because this is the core Jewish neighborhood in Chicago, with an enormous investment in institutions that would be impossible to recreate.”

The Storefront Makeover Contest is set to run September 1 through November 30.

Schubert explained that once entrants file an application, a “before” storefront photo will be taken. Rejuvenation projects – whether involving new signage, doors or windows, or improved window displays – can then begin. “It’s pretty much anything that will make your store more welcoming to customers.” After the work is completed, an “after” photo will be taken. A panel of design professionals will review submissions.

The first 25 entrants will receive a $25 gift certificate from Home Depot.

Among those who attended the reception hosted by George Ballis of Ted’s Fresh Market were Esther Sabo, Tel Aviv Bakery; Richard Trumbo, Music House Academy of Music and Dance; Amer Chaudhry, Care & Care; Drs. Fatima and Anwar Mohiuddin, Universal Medical Center Rehab; Irv Loundy, Devon Bank; Rabbi Tzvi Bider, Chicago Center for Torah & Chesed, and Barbara Singal, principal of Business Operations Solution, and Amie Zander, president and executive director, respectively of the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

“Devon is a diamond in the rough, and now’s the time to make it shine,” said Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th Ward). Silverstein assured storeowners that Devon Avenue streetscape improvements set to begin within the coming year will not upend parking on both sides of the street at the same time.  “Wider sidewalks will be great for sidewalk cafes,” she said.

For further information about the Storefront Makeover Contest, contact Mike Schubert at mfscds@aol.com

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