Sunday, July 15, 2007

Berwyn, Center of the Universe

Splotchy was commenting recently on an ad campaign by the town of Berwyn, a suburb west of Chicago, "Why Berwyn?" This ad campaign has reached my neck of the woods.

This billboard is at Western and Grace, just a few blocks from my home. The irony is that this billboard, apparently trying to convince Chicagoans to pack their bags and move to Berwyn, is in the middle of the "St. Ben's" neighborhood, one of the best middle class neighborhoods in Chicago. St. Ben's is named after a nearby Catholic church, St. Benedict's, which also has one of the best parochial schools in the city. And if you didn't want to send your kid to parochial school, you can send him or her to the local grade school, Alexander Graham Bell Elementary, which is generally considered to be one of the best grade schools in the city-- not even counting their "gifted" program. After school, parents can bring their kids to the nearby Sulzer Library branch, one of only two "regional" libraries in the city- a large branch that has university-level resources. Or you can bring them for music classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Or sign them up for baseball at Welles Park. Or hockey and ice-skating at the indoor ice rink at nearby McFetridge Park. They can drop them off in the excellent afterschool program at Revere Park, where they can take classes in cooking, basketball, etc. They can play baseball, fly a kite, swing on a swing in Horner Park. In fact, there are four large parks nearby with great facitilities within a ten of fifteen minute walk of that corner-- a legecy of the fact that longtime Chicago Parks commissioner Ed Kelly was a resident of the area. In fact, all the neighborhoods nearby-- St. Ben's, North Center (where I live), Lincoln Square, and Ravenswood-- are considered to be some of the most livable in the city. They're safe, clean and diverse, chockful of all kinds of cultural and artistic activities, not to mention lots of restaurants and shopping.

So why would you leave this great place to live in Berwyn? Looking closer at the billboard, Berwyn is trying to sell itself as the center of the Chicago area-- you're able to get to all the other suburbs, and locations in Chicago-- places you might actually want to be-- from Berwyn. In otherwords, move to Berwyn because it's easy to leave Berwyn. Marketing genius.


GETkristiLOVE said...

I'll be down at the ice rink. No need to leave Berwyn.

MacGuffin said...

Better Berwyn than Odessa, Tx I can assure you. We're in the middle of nowhere.

Splotchy said...

That's exactly the same billboard I saw downtown.

Splotchy said...

Oh, and you don't haveta rub in how awesome yer l'il corner of Chicago is.

My dear, dear Lincoln Square. Oh, my dear dear Lincoln Square.

Erik Donald France said...

Johnny, that's hysterical. As is the backwards sign in the previous post.

Macguffin ~~ a friend of mine just moved to Odessa, TX! He's working at an independent school, the one the Bush daughters attended.

lulu said...

StBen's is middle class? The house on Hamilton across the street from Jane and Steve is on the market for $999,999, hardly middle class.

Bubs said...

Lincoln Square/St Ben's is beautiful. We were walking around last night commenting on how different it seems from 15-20 years ago. Good: restaurants, bars, nightlife, parks, culture. Bad: $500,000 tear-downs replaced by $1,000,000 brick monstrosities.

But Berwyn? Now THAT'S living!

'Bubbles' said...

Ah, Berwyn. Mr. Ex was sooo proud to be from Westchester, not Berwyn.


Beth said...

That is a pretty dumb marketing campaign ...

Chris said...

I notice they don't brag about their close proximity to Cicero on that sign. What gives?

Johnny Yen said...

The ice rink is great-- it's where Adam learned to skate. They do have hockey there, too.

Wasn't there a documentary about high school football in Odessa a few years back?

I had to rub it in, of course!

The irony is that I was actually born in Berwyn-- my family lived in Lagrange, but my mother's obstetrician ran his practice out of Macneal Memorial Hospital in Berwyn. I had the good sense to leave Berwyn after my birth.

The change in Lincoln Square is amazing. When I first moved to the area (actually in nearby North Center), you had to avoid Welles Park at night because gangs had gun battles there occasionallly. The junkies, winos and assorted stupid white trash milling on Lincoln Avenue added to the ambience. That's all gone now.

I just have to wonder about the backwards sign-- if it's occurred to him that it might be why his car hasn't sold. He might also think about adding a price.

There are still two-flats in the neighorhood in the half million range, and affordable rents here and there. But yes, the values are jacking up, aren't they?

That teardown next door to our place was on the market for $1.4 million. It didn't sell, and the builder has moved in.

I'd have to say, that despite my gritting of my teeth about the occasional obnoxious yuppie being there, the change in Lincoln Square has been nice. It's nice to be in a place where my kids can play outdoors.

That's funny. Westchester has actually been changing lately, not for the better, while Berwyn is actually attracting young couples.

No doubt. It's not a bad place, but it's super-bland. Their big event every year is the Houby Festival-- a Czech festival celebrating mushrooms. The eating kind, not the psychotropic.

I know, what about it?

I actually spent four years teaching in Cicero. I started right after they'd had to fire the entire police department for corruption. I don't mean most, I mean all. This was around the time the town president, Betty Loren Maltese, the wife of a gangster, went to prison for corruption. Cicero is on a downward spiral. A lot of the young latino families, mostly Mexican, that had been rejuvenating Cicero, have given up because of the worsening gang and crime situation, and, of course, are moving to Berwyn.

Tenacious S said...

Berwyn, now that's one classy suburb. I bet they jsut couldn't fit all of Berwyn's positive attributes on one sign and settled for this campaign instead.

MacGuffin said...

Friday Night Lights the book, movie and tv series. Shoot me now. High school football is like a religion in West Texas. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against sports, I've always been athletic myself but literacy over athletics is a fairly prudent viewpoint, right? WRONG, at least here that is. Sorry for the minor rant.

busterp said...

so close to everything.

I heard the town name Berwyn and immediately thought of Rich Koz (and a rubber chicken). His myspace notes the following: Hometown: Not Berwyn!

I know he's joking.

Wish that ka-car-bob could have survived. Progress I guess.

The Elk said...

Berwyn is the part of Stickney that no body wanted......

I'm known as scoon said...

Marketing genius... you make a valid point, but what you miss is people who look at homes in St Ben's and cannot afford them, might take a look at Berwyn instead after seeing the bill board.

Your judgement is short sighted.

I'm also curious to know where those of you who are dissing Berwyn live, and whether you own a house there.

Johnny Yen said...

I did get the point actually, but it seems funny that people would want to leave that area-- Berwyn, as I'm sure you know, is the subject of a running joke with a local television personality.

Actually, I have a number of friends who live there, including my very hip art teacher friend Paul, and they love it. Safe, clean, affordable.

Anonymous said...

I drove through to get to Fitzgerald's... actually was surprised at how affordable it is. Had never really been there before. The homes are not bad at all either for the prices. My cousin just bought a house there too and loves it. haven't seen her place yet. For some its an affordable solution and still close to the city. Not everyone can afford the high prices of real estate these days, especially when they're over inflated like NYC, Chicago, SF, LA and DC. Good or bad, it takes a lot of balls for a city to market itself so agressively the way it did. That's progressive.

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