Southport Neighbors Association was formed in the summer of 1988 in order to give residents a voice during the fight for night games at Wrigley Field. An existing neighborhood group had not had elections in recent memory and the “president” was making decisions and giving media interviews without consulting anyone in the community.
Initially known as Northwest Lake View Neighbors, the group’s boundaries were half of the present day’s organization: Irving Park to Addison and Southport to Ashland. The first meeting was to be held on the night AFTER the first Wrigley night game, August 9, 1988. Unfortunately, the first game was rained out and the make-up game was played that night. Parking was a disaster (still an anomaly in the neighborhood at that time) and the media came out in full force expecting a riot over the night game. No riot ensued, but the group pledged to be a grass-roots community voice and vowed to tackle the impact of the Cubs, refurbishing Juniper Playlot and fighting gang and property crimes.
By February 1989, the group had changed its name to Southport Neighbors Association and responded to neighbor’s interest to the east and doubled the service area to include the present-day-boundaries of Irving Park to Addison, Clark to Ashland. The logo was redesigned and reflected the character of the neighborhood at that time, a residential aspect that was mainly frame 2-flats and a business community that was mainly churches.
In the first 6 years, Southport Neighbors Association modeled itself after the Graceland organization to the north, with an advisory board and no officers. Working closely with the 46th Ward alderman, Helen Shiller, the group focused on the needs of the community at that time: seniors and low-income. In 1993, the community was split between the 47th Ward (Gene Schulter) and the 44th Ward (Bernie Hansen).
In 1994, the first wave of tear-down redevelopment hit the community and Southport began to awaken as a commercial destination. The organization formalized its structure with elected officers and a board, and successfully fought to become the “lucky” 13th branch of the Lave View Citizen’s Council to ensure that all aldermanic requests would be funneled through the organization. Southport Neighbors polled the community on development which led to a successful overlay district that mitigated over-development and implemented permit parking.
Today, Southport Neighbors Association can look back as having significantly impacted the growth of this community into a family-friendly, liveable community. The Children’s Fest, enhancements to the zoning code and excellent communications have given this community a city-wide reputation as a great place to live and play.