Balloons bobbed at Independence Park on Central Street at 3 p.m. this past Friday, as City officials and neighbors gathered to celebrate the Great Places in America’s Great Neighborhoods award the neighborhood has received from the American Planning Association. Central Street is recognized this year with nine other neighborhoods nationally, including San Francisco’s Chinatown; Downtown Decatur, Ga.; Beaufort Historic District in Beaufort, S.C., and the neighborhood of downtown Norwich/Chelsea Landing in Norwich, Conn.
Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, 18th District State Representative Robyn Gabel, Fifth Ward Alderman Jane Grover and Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Tendam were among those present. Mark Muenzer, Evanston’s new director of community development spoke first. He congratulated the community and introduced Dennis Marino, the City’s former manager of zoning and planning, who retired this June after 23 years of employment with Evanston. Mr. Muenzer said Mr. Marino was responsible for informing the APA of Central Street’s characteristics that make it such a livable and vibrant community.
Mr. Marino talked about the area’s "edgy, urban vibe," its "people-gathering places" and highlighted how residents and businesses are committed and active stakeholders in the neighborhood. He also said, raising a laugh, "We have at least 20 years of work left.""
Mayor Tisdahl spoke next, recounting examples of places and people who make the area special, such as Post Office employee Michael Gibson and Susan Trieschmann of Curt’s Café, and the "little, old" North branch library, which has, she said, "the greatest librarians." She said the people who work on Central Street, the people who come to Central Street to meet and spend time, and the people who live there "make it special."
All 10 of America’s Great Neighborhoods 2013 are listed at www.planning.org/greatplaces/neighborhoods/2013/.