Five Questions with Eric Sinclair

By Mike Fourcher | Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Eric Sinclair, president of the Greater Rockwell Organization, in his native environment on Rockwell Street. Photo by Mike Fourcher.

Editor’s Note: We want to get to know our neighbors, so we picked five questions to ask each of them. Feel free to ask them your own questions in the comments. Or submit your own responses on our submissions page.

Eric Sinclair, a technology worker by day, has lived in the Rockwell area of Lincoln Square for nine years and has been involved with the Greater Rockwell Organization almost since he first moved in. Now the president of GRO, he stopped for an interview with us after dropping a few GRO update flyers in neighbor mailboxes.

1. What’s your favorite spot in the neighborhood?

The neighborhood has a lot of great spots. I’m sure everyone tells you that…I spend a lot of time here [at Beans & Bagels]. I spend quality time here with my wife and friends and so forth. It’s a good place to pop in. It’s a local business that seems to be holding up, survive the Rockwell transition very nicely.

The transition?

With the train station going in and going out. All the businesses in here actually did a very nice job surviving that.

I’d say another favorite place is HarvesTime. Just as, again, a local vendor that has expanded as the neighborhood has come up.

2. What’s the goofiest thing you’ve seen in the neighborhood?

One of the oddest things I’ve ever seen, and this is only odd in the way that it shows how cavalier things can be. Shortly after we first moved into the neighborhood, we actually live just at where the tracks go over Campbell, the tracks are coming down, it’s an uneven trestle, so one end is higher than the other.

A truck goes through and – this has happened more than once – usually they get stuck. This time actually it just sheared the top of the truck off. And it was a City truck. So they stopped, got out, took a look at the fiberglass top, pushed it to the curb, got back into the truck and pulled off.

3. If you could change one thing, what would you change about the neighborhood?

It’s a good question. Many of the things I’ve wanted in the neighborhood have come. I still feel there’s room to grow for bookstores. But now we have two: The one on Lincoln, formerly an antique book store, now a used book store [Ravenswood Used Books], and Book Cellar.

I wanted a bagel shop – I don’t eat wheat any more – but now we have Beans & Bagels and that’s doing very well.

I think one of the things I’d like to see more of in our neighborhood is on-going increase of civic involvement. I think we do pretty well as a neighborhood. GRO exists, the Waters Today people do a lot of great work, there’s work being done for the Jacobs Playlot [at Leland and Virginia Streets] – there’s people trying to bring that up. But I think what could help the neighborhood is more interaction between these groups.

We each have our constituencies. GRO has broad goals. Waters Today has a narrow set of goals. Jacobs Playlot has narrow goals. If we can all learn to work together and take a holistic view of what the neighborhood needs to benefit the people in the neighborhood. I think that’s something we could do to improve the neighborhood.

4. What’s different about the neighborhood since you got here?

We moved here nine years ago. Rockwell had nothing in this business space [Beans & Bagels], Rockwell’s Grill didn’t exist, it was a Mexican seafood place that was later…I think the owners were taken in for drugrunning. Rockwell didn’t really exist as a strip at that point and time. Rockwell Crossing was still an abandoned grocery store.

So that’s what I’ve seen change in the neighborhood. It has slowly but surely invested in itself, as well as external investment, and grown and improved. We have more local businesses, we have a lot more people moving in. There’s a lot more people walking around on the streets. Dogs and kids.

To me, one of the nice things I’ve seen is that a lot more families are staying, rather than leaving. It seemed like at the beginning you’d have a transition where you’d see couple with Labrador, couple with Labrador and child and then they disappear. Now you see people staying around and investing in the area. I think think that’s a big change.

5. Octoberfest or Ribfest?

If I have to choose it would be Ribfest. But realistically I try to get out of town for Octoberfest. Part of it is because it’s my anniversary. But part of it is that living where we do, it gets kind of crowded and it’s hard to park. So we just get out and go somewhere.

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  • http://twitter.com/cj1171 Chris Jansen

    Being a resident of the area, I would really like to see businesses start moving into the Rockwell/Lawrence intersection. There are a vast number of open units around that corner and could really be revitalized once some momentum gets going.

  • http://twitter.com/esinclai Eric Sinclair

    Chris, there are good movements in that area. Though not directly at the intersection (that is, not where the Star Wars minimart was, or the Cafe-a-Go-Go – two spots I agree definitely need a loving occupant), the space formerly occupied by Cafe Blu will soon have a new business opening up.

    I won’t spoil the reports you’ll see here, but it should definitely be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

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