At the 2020 annual Streeterville Organization of Active Residents meeting, held virtually Feb. 18 via a YouTube livestream, SOAR leaders and Chicago aldermen representing Streeterville identified public safety and revitalization of the neighborhood as important initiatives to focus on this year.
"We have certainly faced some huge challenges this year — the pandemic, the civil unrest, the looting of our neighborhood twice," said Deborah Gershbein, president of the SOAR Board of Directors. "This has left everyone's nerves on edge."
Gershbein said SOAR has worked diligently to improve safety for Streeterville residents, noting the organization's safety task force is in regular communication with the Chicago Police Department's 18th District to address resident concerns.
Moving ahead, SOAR will continue to advocate for quality of life issues on behalf of Streeterville residents and work with the city of Chicago on its recovery program, Gershbein said.
"It may take some time before we get back to normal, but we will build back better than ever," she said.
42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly acknowledged 2020 was a particularly difficult year for many people and said he looks forward to 2021 "with a great deal of optimism" now that vaccine distribution is underway.
"It's going to take some time to see supply meet demand, but I am very confident that the Biden administration, working with the states and cities, is going to ramp up that distribution effort dramatically in just a matter of weeks," he said.
Reilly added developers are continuing to submit proposals for projects downtown, which will be vetted with the appropriate neighborhoods, including SOAR.
2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins said he thought the city's latest data on vaccinations and COVID-19 cases was encouraging, noting Walgreens stores in Chicago plan to roll out vaccines in the coming weeks and residents 65 and older can make vaccine appointments at Walgreens through the company's app.
He also provided an update on the city's efforts to address an increase in crimes such as carjacking in downtown Chicago.
"This is just a horrific development like none of us have ever seen," Hopkins said. "The city of Chicago has formed a citywide task force that is up and running. They're seeing an increase in arrests initially right out of the box for this effort, so we're hoping that will pay off."
Hopkins said he and Reilly both prioritized allocating funds from their budget for public safety measures, specifically pod cameras and license plate character readers.
Additionally, Hopkins noted the future of Water Tower Place is of particular concern for the community, calling the site "essential to the city of Chicago and our neighborhood in particular." He said he would be working closely with SOAR on the matter throughout 2021.
"It's vital to all of us to have Water Tower Place successful and to have it continue to remain open," he said. "But that means some changes are going to occur there, and what those changes are, we simply don't know yet. The community must be a part of that conversation."