Eighth Ward Alderman Ann Rainey has spent much of her career building up Howard Street, the main east-west street in the Ward that had fallen on hard times when she was first elected to the Evanston City Council in 1983.
She is now stepping off the Council, but a building on the street will bear her name for generations to come.
Friends, family members, and colleagues of the longtime City Council member gathered at the special dedication of a new senior affordable housing building at 1011 Howard St., which will be named “The Ann Rainey Apartments.”
The Evergreen Real Estate Group and Council for Jewish Elderly organized the ceremony in honor of the Alderman’s dedication and advocacy for the project, which had its start before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I get to work with a lot of elected officials in my line of work,” said David Block, Director of Development for Evergreen, opening up the ceremony May 6, “and very few of them have added the kind of thoughtful reflection of the community and its values that Ann has added to this project.”
Others spoke of Ald. Rainey’s single-minded devotion to building up Howard Street and the Eighth Ward.
Mayor Stephen Hagerty thanked the sponsoring groups for the opportunity to take part in the “appropriate recognition of a force in Evanston politics.
“You can be an elected official and vote ‘no’ to lots and lots of things,” he said. “Or you can be an elected official who has vision, who understands the kind of partnerships that you need with the private sector, with the non-profit community, with the faith community, and you can get a hell of a lot done in 30-something years,” he said, taking note of Ald. Rainey’s many contributions.
Judged against the ideal of leaving the City better than before, in Alderman Rainey’s case, “that can truly be said,” the Mayor said.
“When you walk down Howard Street, when you walk all over the ward, and you see the change that is happening … when you have friends that live up in Wilmette or Winnetka or Glencoe and on a Friday night say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to Howard Street, we’re going to Peckish Pig, we’re going to Ward 8 [two establishments the Alderman championed] – that didn’t happen a long time ago, and that happens [now],” he said.
Former Chicago Alderman Joe Moore, whose 49th Ward is located on the other side of Howard Street, was among the speakers.
Walk down “from the Howard El all the way to Kedzie,” Mr. Moore said, “and you see the handiwork of Ann Rainey’s 34-year commitment to the Eighth Ward.”
Mr. Moore continued, “You know, sometimes, when you’ve been around in public life for a while, people kind of take you for granted.” Like Ald. Rainey, the alderman was a longtime incumbent who was defeated in a bid for another term of office. “The people of this Ward will probably live to regret their decision – no disrespect to any other people holding office,” he added. “But Ann is absolutely irreplaceable. This building will be a lasting monument to her commitment to the betterment of the citizens of Evanston, senior citizens in particular, and to this street that we shared, once upon a time.”
Other speakers included Johanna Nyden, the City’s Director of Community Development, whose department worked hand-in-hand with Ald. Rainey on many of the Howard Street revitalization projects, and Ryan Kettelkamp, principal of Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp Landscape Architecture, the landscape architect on the 1011 Howard Street building and also an Eighth Ward resident.
Having moved into the ward 21 years ago, Mr. Kettelkamp spoke of meetings and talks with the Alderman over the years on various projects.
From those conversations, “I learned that a ward isn’t just houses that you see behind you, and the people that live in it. It’s the schools, it’s the parks, it’s the hospital, it’s the businesses that activated.
“And over these past 21 years I can think of … no one who’s worked harder to activate this ward … than Ann Rainey.”
As the last to speak, Ald. Rainey said, “I cannot believe how many people are here.”
She recalled a story behind another building dedication years ago.
“I know many of you know Lorraine Morton,” recalled Ald. Rainey of Ms. Morton, who she served with and was Evanston’s first African American mayor.
“So many years ago she discovered that it was me that recommended the Civic Center” be renamed in Ms. Morton’s honor.
“She told me that that was the greatest honor she had ever received in her entire public career, and that’s the way I feel about this renaming.”
Ald. Rainey paid special credit to the partnership of the Evergreen Real Estate group and Council for Jewish Elderly that came together on the new building that will provide housing to 60 low-income households in Evanston.
“The building is next door to a CVS, across the street from Walgreens, down the street from IHOP… a McDonalds,” said Ald. Rainey, showing her grasp of details that made her one of Evanston’s most masterful politicians over the years. “I’m so proud of the City of Evanston doing this through our affordable housing fund.”
The plaque will be displayed inside the completed building, said Mr. Block, who read its inscription.
“The Ann Rainey Apartments are dedicated to Alderman Ann Rainey, who served the City of Evanston for 34 years between 1983 and 2021, in recognition of her commitment to the citizens of Evanston and dedication to ensuring affordable housing for its residents.”
“Dedicated May 2021,” he said, receiving cheers and applause from those in attendance.