What did 200+ people do in South Park tonight?

200+ people watched a bunch of neighbors get together and put on an amazing production of “A midsummers night dream.” But, that wasn’t all- Emerson Academy was also showing a movie in their parking lot just down the street. And, Saturday night, while the play is on night 2 (it’s free- you should go) there will be a progressive porch, patio and deck party.

It’s tough living in the National “Neighborhood of the year.” And what’s even tougher, is the rest of the city could be doing the same thing, if we had some leadership that understood that we don’t have to pay people to like our city- we just have to act like we like it.

When the idea first surfaced of doing Shakespeare in South Park, even I thought the idea a bit crazy. But, if that’s what people want to do, you support it. Next weekend we have a jazz festival, thanks to Ron Gable and his Jazz Advocate. Give people the ability to do great things and they come through.

People thought I was crazy when I bought my house, then my office (total purchase price for both, under $20K). The two cottages each cost almost that much. But, I believed in creating my own destiny. Now, we’re down to one problem house on the block and one empty. Not bad for a neighborhood that could have been flattened in the name of “urban renewal” or “land banking.”

The basic thing that government must begin to understand if it wants to change a city is that it isn’t about the bricks and mortar. Never was. It’s about the people. People live in, and fix up buildings. People clean up streets and alleys, people play in parks and people put on plays and have parties. Take care of the people- and the rest starts happening.

With that thought- good night. Come to South Park tomorrow night for night 2 of “A Midsummer’s night dream” and see what ordinary people can achieve.

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3 Responses

  1. lisa September 18, 2009 / 11:12 pm
    I didnt know they were playing a midsummer nights dream…Thankie!
  2. tg September 18, 2009 / 11:37 pm
    Great post David. I was at the South Park Tavern tonight with my hubby and the creator of http://www.looneyexecutive.com/ Blake Glenn. A good friend of mine dropped in later and we were all talking about the demographic that seems to be most interested in South Park these days. I’ve seen two: 1) the 20-30something young professional couples without kids who have at some point lived in Chicago and want an authentic urban experience; and 2) empty nesters from Oakwood who are tired of the high taxes, spend a lot of their time downtown or around town anyway, and are looking for single story homes.

    I’ve had several people contact me lately from around the country because they check the internet and keep hearing good things about South Park. Are we perfect? Nope. Are we Oakwood or Chicago? Nope. But after an hour Blake looked at Dave & I and said “this is your own personal Cheers, isn’t it? Everyone seems to know your name.” And for the next few hours, it never let up.

    THAT is what makes South Park so special. The Tavern. Shakespeare in the Park (all weekend), an alley sweep tomorrow morning. The PPD tomorrow night and Jazz Fest next weekend. Plus the day to day interaction as people go for walks and run into each other around the neighborhood.

    It’s not about the City leadership duplicating this in other neighborhoods, it’s about the people that live in those neighborhoods duplicating it. Some of the ideas, I’m sure, South Park borrowed from others, some of ours have been borrowed. That’s ok and it’s in fact, pretty cool. South Park isn’t the only place in town with a sense of community. In fact, the lesson to be learned is to stop waiting for someone else to make it happen, especially the City, and make it happen on your own.

    I’ve discovered lately that Cities have Neighborhoods and Suburbs have sub-divisions. Well, except for ours, and that’s because I’m usually the social coordinator out here. All it takes is one person in each neighborhood to be the glue that holds it all together.

    Why is any of this important? It’s all about the connections we form in our communities. The more engaged you are, the more connected you feel, the more painful it will be for you to ever leave. To me, that is what makes South Park so special – it’s the people! And it doesn’t take City to convey that, it takes the people.

  3. David Esrati September 19, 2009 / 6:52 am

    @TG- but, the city can build mechanisms to help support the people- instead of asking the neighborhoods to support the mechanism (Priority boards as an example).

    That’s why I’m building a Drupal/CiviCRM site to create networks of people online- to facilitate people connecting. I’m identifying the neighborhood presidents, I’m working on gathering e-mails from voters, and my “Esrati Plan” focuses on championing people over “economic development” – because the people come first.

    South Park, the South Park Tavern, Historic South Park, it all works together to create a sense of place. It’s not the “big things” but the many small things. Unfortunately, politicians like to talk about big grandiose achievements- while it’s really the diversity of the community that makes it healthy.

    It’s what Jane Jacobs talked about in her seminal book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities
    ” back around when I was born. It’s still applicable, maybe more so, today.


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