Thank you and Happy Holidays! A letter from the Fern Hill Team
To the Old Town Community,
As we near the end of 2021, we want to take a moment to thank all of the stakeholders who participated and engaged with us over these past few months. As you all know, our engagement process started with a public virtual meeting led by Alderman Hopkins in September. Following that meeting, it was our pleasure to have follow up meetings with various community organizations, condominium associations, and one-on-one coffees with individual community members. While our outreach included over thirty organizations and associations, we want to particularly thank those who gave us their time and shared their opinions and ideas. We appreciate the rich diversity of perspectives and opinions shared in our meetings. One theme stood out above all others – each of you care deeply about the Old Town community and its future.
In addition to stakeholder meetings, we also launched an innovative, inclusive community engagement website to promote direct engagement from as many community members as possible. In addition to being a central and consistent point of communication for project updates and FAQs, we were able to register hundreds of individual users and push multiple rounds of unique questions. In doing so, we have been overwhelmed and thrilled by the level of engagement, including nearly 1,400 individual questions and responses.
What makes the website special is that all the community feedback is public so that the community can see for themselves what their neighbors are saying. In that sense, the feedback helps to educate the development team but also promotes dialogue among fellow neighbors. As you can see, we received a broad range of comments with respect to neighborhood issues, challenges and opportunities, and specific site reuse recommendations; however, five consistent themes of concern, or hope, where often repeated:
- A desire to regain a walkable, neighborhood grocery store to replace the vacated Treasure Island space lost in 2019, which has left a noticeable void in the day-to-day quality of life.
- Increasing concern around the increase of violent crime and thefts in the neighborhood, including a challenge to find ways to increase and enhance neighborhood traffic, congestion, safety, and security.
- An apprehension about the northern progression of the Wells Street nightlife/bar scene (formerly contained south of North Avenue) which carries issues of congestions, noice, and displaces traditional neighborhood boutiques.
- A goal to preserve and enhance the unique historical character of Wells Street, especially those three charming blocks between North Avenue and Lincoln Avenue.
- A need to promote opportunities for community members to interact with each other, forming neighborly connections, and bringing people together in new, accessible retail and public open spaces.
Thank you again for taking the time to participate in this process. We truly believe in an authentic approach and look forward to continuing to work with you in the new year. Until then, we wish you and your families a healthy and safe Holiday Season and a Happy New Year.
Nick Anderson and Mike Ellch