How We Got Through 2020
For a year when everything seemed to grind to a halt, we still found ways to move forward in 2020. The North Loop Neighborhood Association brought people safely together when we could, for some fun outside with neighbors, to chip in and improve our riverfront and streetscape.. and to show our compassion for those needing help.
The pandemic, of course, had a huge impact on businesses everywhere. But as our restaurants, taprooms and shops started adapting to stay afloat, we helped get the word out online. We posted dozens of profiles to our social media channels, stressing the importance of supporting small business.
We helped distribute candle votives for the windows of North Loop restaurants—symbols of hope and solidarity.
We purchased gift cards as prizes, in a contest to encourage mask wearing.
And as the shutdown eased up, we placed stickers around the neighborhood, inviting people to come back and visit.
The unrest that followed George Floyd’s death inspired an outpouring of support for communities hurting the most. The donation drives we organized at James Rice Park were so successful, they inspired us to have regular “Service Saturdays” in the North Loop.
Besides litter pickup and park clearing that were already monthly events, we hosted multiple blood drives and a flu shot clinic… donation drives for school supplies and household needs… voter registration tents and a “meet the candidates” event… and we purchased 60 books on racial justice and equity for neighbors to share through our Little Free Libraries.
Although we couldn’t host as many events as we usually do, we still managed a few. Like the Food Trucks on First Street in September. And two free movies, at Target Field Station… A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood in August, and Jurassic Park on Halloween night.
We continue to consult with city, neighborhood and business leaders when safety concerns arise.
For the safety of pedestrians, we put out crosswalk signs during the months when there’s no snow.
And the stop signs we had been lobbying for, at 2nd Street and 5th Avenue, were finally installed this spring.
PARKS AND BEAUTIFICATION
Our colorful new steel and glass monument arrived at our Welcome Park in May, funded by generous donations of North Loop businesses.
More than 100 new trees plus sod were planted—mostly along 3rd Street—and we helped line up volunteers to water them… and placed signs out for pet owners, to steer their dogs away.
Along the riverfront, volunteers put in more than 700 hours, from spring to summer to fall… clearing out invasive plants and overgrowth in the woods.. and adding tons of mulch around the playground and planting beds.
We saved the dog park from closing, by taking over management this year—and brought in four truckloads of gravel for a fresh new surface.
And we’re working with the Park Board to hopefully start creating a new public park this year along 3rd Street.
HONORING OUR HISTORY
As developers look to remodel and reimagine our historic buildings—and build new ones—we continue to give our input on their plans, looking out for the integrity of the neighborhood.
And to honor our rich history, we’ve started installing plaques on historic buildings. Each one has a QR code directing you to even more vintage photos and information on our website.
Our “Historic North Loop” section is now up to 34 entries and we’ve added an online map to guide you on your own walking history tour.
And week after week, we use our Facebook and Instagram accounts to shine a positive light on the North Loop. In 2020, our numbers surged to more than 15,000 followers on Instagram.
And with the help of one of our neighbors, Ovative, we redesigned our website, northloop.org to make it easier for visitors to find the vast amount of information and resources available here.
So while 2020 did force us to say goodbye to some of our favorites, we can credit the strong engagement of the community for the fact that so many survived here, still intact… and now looking forward, to better times ahead.
By Mike Binkley, North Loop resident