Aurora redevelopment chief planning for busy retirement
By Stephanie Lulay firstname.lastname@example.org December 18, 2012 3:12PM
After 13 years with the city of Aurora, Karen Christensen, manager of the city's Neighborhood Redevelopment Division, is retiring at the end of the year. A lot of the work Christensen did with the city focused around the Fox River which she said is one of her favorite parts of the Aurora.
Updated: January 27, 2013 6:05AM
AURORA — Karen Christensen, head of the city’s Neighborhood Redevelopment division, will retire at the end of this month. But that doesn’t means she’s made plans to slow down.
“I’m retiring because I really want more time to spend on some personal things that are of interest to me and volunteer,” she said. “I’m looking forward to this time in Aurora, to give back to my adopted hometown. I see lots of opportunities to make the city a better place.”
Christensen has a laundry list of activities on tap in her retirement. She will continue to serve with the Fox Valley Festival Chorus, L.I.F.T. Aurora (the board responsible for Culture Stock Bookstore), Aurora Green Lights, the Cultural Creatives board and as president of the Aurora Jewish Renewal Congregation.
“In between that, I started a downtown book club called Books and Bread that ... is going strong,” Christensen said.
Christensen, a Chicago native, worked in a variety of redevelopment roles in the suburbs. But it was in Missoula, Mont., that she began her journey to Aurora.
Milly Dunn, the mother of longtime CEO of the Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Sue Vos, volunteered at a Montana bicycle program managed by Christensen. (Vos died this summer.)
“Milly said: You have to meet my daughter, Sue. She insisted,” Christensen said.
After Christensen moved back to the Chicago suburbs to be near her sister and brother, Dunn set up brunch for the three at Hollywood Casino in Aurora. Christensen knew the connection was a fit.
“Sue and I spent the whole day talking and we really connected,” Christensen said.
Christensen spent 10 years as the Downtown Riverwalk administrator in Aurora. When that division was eliminated in 2009, Christensen took over as manager of the neighborhood development division. She called that a “huge challenge” because she had not worked with federal housing regulations since the mid-1980s.
“I had to learn everything all over again. It was a time of transition and building a team,” she said.
The challenges made Christensen feel like she’s made a difference in the city.
“I look back and I say I’ve really made a very nice life for myself here,” she said. “I will continue to stick my nose in everybody’s business.”