Community News. Development and Public Policy. South Campus Plan of U of C. Ending Homelessness, Unaffordability. To University and Community. The Urban Renewal series also contains some background, including in the timeline pages. U of C Community Renewal Conference of April, 2003. Tracking Community Trends I and II.

Woodlawn Trends, Woodlawn and the University, University and communities in general

Presented by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its community-service website, www.hydepark.org.

See reports on UC campus south plan meetings in South Campus Plan page. Sonya Malunda, 773 702-4568. http://southcampusplan.org. Grove Park public housing complex web/blog: http://GroveParc.blogspot.com/.
To descriptions of Woodlawn Children's Promise Community

Here:

Turning a corner with Robust Coffee at 63rd and Woodlawn?

Links 2012 to Woodlawn Network, CMAP and other planning and resource/needs mapping of Woodlawn and other nearby neighborhoods

CMAP: http://www.cmap.illinois.gov/moving-forward-in-detail/-/asset_publisher/Q4En/content/planning-for-green-and-healthy-chicago-neighborhoods?isMovingForward=1

LISC/Chiacgo New Communities/Woodlawn: http://www.newcommunities.org/communities/woodlawn/

Woodlawn Network: http://www.newcommunities.org/communities/woodlawn/leadAgency.asp

 

Meetings

May 17 2014, Saturday, 8:30 am-12 pm. Annual Woodlawn Summit. (This may be invitation only- certainly RSVP UC Civic Engagement). Social Services Administration, 969 E. 60th St.

The biggest issue is the closure of the Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic and occupies and arrests over it.

Crime, espec. in West Woodlawn has had a big spike, and strategies to overcome.

Ald. Cochran won reelection to both the aldermanic and committeeman positions, but the first was in a run-off and the latter was won by just 59%. Cochran supported both the speed cameras and the Infrastructure Trust in 2012.

The third annual Woodlawn Summit was deemed a major success. Top city officials (less the mayor) participated.

At the end of August 2011, announced was that Chicago won one of 5 Choice Neighborhood Initiative Grants, in this case $30.5 million for GROVE PARC and its manager PoAH. It's directed to Grove Parc by Mayor Emanuel to help make this 504 unit complex south of 61st at Cottage Grove an anchor. It is part of the MOU agreement of the city (interagency) and U of C for planning and redevelopment of the whole area and is tied by the Mayor to his foreclosure program that targets inter alia West Woodlawn and to efforts to focus on rebuilding communities including jobs and not just spreading money around. The $30.5m is hoped to leverage up to $272 m. Other items in the MOU and Choice Neighborhoods grant affecting Woodlawn include parks remakes, jump-start of Woodlawn Children's Promise Community, infill housing, 63rd and Stony I corridors redevelopment and much more.

Grove Parc coming along under POAH. Chicago Reporter, January 2 2012

By: Emily Gowing / January 02, 2012
From the January/February 2012 issue of the Chicago Reporter, Subsidized Housing
When Faith McGhee moved to Grove Parc in 1991, the federally subsidized building provided her with stability when she needed it the most. “It really helped me to put my life back together when I was between jobs because I wasn’t able to afford market rent,” said McGhee, who was separated from her husband and had three children. “It’s a place rich in resources.”

But, by late 2007, the condition at the Woodlawn building had turned 180 degrees. After years of mismanagement, Grove Parc had deteriorated to the point where it failed the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s inspections twice in a year, scoring as low as 11 on a scale of 100—49 points below passing. As a result, the building was slated for foreclosure.

“I kind of felt like [the management was] allowing the property to go downhill. Housing all across the board was going downhill,” McGhee said.

That’s when Preservation of Affordable Housing stepped in to salvage the building. The Boston-based nonprofit is known across the country for its success rate in taking subsidized buildings in disarray and transforming them—while preserving the affordability of the units.

When the nonprofit’s management team, Preservation Housing Management, assumed management of the building in January 2008, it began making urgent repairs to the building to bring it up to HUD’s standards. Because the inspection scores had been so low, it was a monumental task to improve conditions and pass inspection, but the management team had the support of residents, said Karen Rhodes, Preservation Housing Management’s senior property manager. “The residents were cheering us on. They wanted to pass inspection as much as we did,” she said.

By November 2008, the nonprofit managed to raise the inspection score by 64 points.

Maria Plati, the nonprofit’s communications manager, said her organization’s work comes at a crucial time as the country faces a growing need to preserve affordable housing. According to HUD’s 2009 biannual report, only 32 units of affordable housing are available for every 100 very-low-income renters. “We have a specific mission to increase the number of affordable housing units across the country, given the fact that many were being lost to market-rate rent,” she said.

In 2001, the nonprofit began to counteract that loss by acquiring and redeveloping 14 affordable-unit properties in Missouri in a $22 million transaction that saved 915 units. Since then, it has rescued and refinanced 6,800 units in 54 developments in 10 different states, including the District of Columbia.

“We put together financing packages in a creative way so we can acquire and restore and manage these properties,” Plati said.

The acquisition of Grove Parc was the beginning of a multiyear project. The nonprofit managed to pass HUD inspection, but it ultimately determined that—since the condition at the building was so unstable—its demolition and rebuilding was the only option for a long-term preservation.

The move was met with some degree of skepticism by the rest of the Woodlawn community. “As with any community in change and transition, the surrounding community in Woodlawn has expressed a concern about our practice, in terms of us tearing down,” said Felicia Dawson, the nonprofit’s director of community affairs.

So the nonprofit made sure to find temporary housing for the 390 tenants and guaranteed their return once the building is rebuilt. All 504 affordable units will be preserved, and 210 of them will remain on-site, while the remaining 294 will be off-site in existing apartments that it will purchase and rehab.

In early November, two buildings holding a combined total of 67 units, 60 of which are affordable, were completed and ready for tenants to move back in.

McGhee was among the first Grove Parc residents to return to the building, renting a one-bedroom apartment in the new development on South Cottage Grove Avenue. “So far I don’t really have a complaint … although I’ve heard people say they weren’t comfortable because of some of the new rules,” she said, adding, “They’re willing to work with you. They are still working around some things in the building, but there are a lot of things that I have now that I didn’t have when I was in the building.”

 

Almost all of Woodlawn is in a TIF enacted in 1999. A map of planned uses was amended in December 2011.

December, 2011. Hyde Park Day School and the Orthogenic School, apparently under request to better have or justify a relationship to the University, are moving to new quarters in Woodlawn. They will build a 72,000 sf facility on 13 parcels the city si selling on the 900 block of East 63rd street. The city will give back $500,000. Both the day school and the residential facility can now grow to serve more children-- and staff, which has to be almost at a 1:1 ratio. Total cost is $28 million. One indications are that the University will let the current facilities sit until another use is found -- to reuse or tear down. The new facility will join a growing campus of social services and institutions (see next item).

It looks like there is a major opportunity for a growing set of social, health, community, and schools to develop running along a spine from Ellis to Drexel and beyond, 60th to 64th or 65th to develop into a strong corridor. Center would be along Ingleside between 62nd and 64th. This is an area that has been known largely for vacant lots, gang activities and homicides, and the back door of a notorious, but now being remade Grove Parc low income housing. Newest announced additions to AKArama center, Harris Recreational Center, and several others all the way up to a replacement for Career Pathways, Woodlawn Service Center, and SSA are the Hyde Park Day School and Orthogenic School. Anchoring on the north are several university buildings completed or under construction. And Cottage Grove is next.

Ald. Cochrane's report on the new investment 2011

[Terms: WCN seems to mean Woodlawn Choice Neighborhood, a new name since the grant area initiatives. See www.poah.org/pdf/?WoodlawnRibbonCuttingRelease.pdf.
Woodlawn NCP = Woodlawn New Communities Program, a collaborative or organizations and Quality of Life plan under LISC and WPIC?
Woodlawn Park- the new name for Grove Parc.]

Change is coming to the Chicago 's Woodlawn community. Secretary Shaun Donovan, U.S .Department of Housing and Urban Development, announced that the Woodlawn community will be the recipient of a $30.5 million grant for a comprehensive and integrated development and revitalization plan.The awarding of the first ever 'Choice Neighborhoods Initiative' grant went to the national non-profit group, Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), who proposed that their transformation of the former 504-unit all Section-8 Grove Parc Plaza Apartments, along Cottage Grove between 61st and 63rd Street, into WoodlawnPark, a new mixed-income, mixed use development, will serve as the anchor for a comprehensive Woodlawn revitalization.

Responding to a competitive process, in which more than 64 other applicants vied for the federal funding, POAH enlisted a variety of other partners to address the comprehensive approach and financial 'match' demanded by HUD. POAH put together a proposal that expects to leverage the $30.5 million into $272 million of total development in the area over the next three years.

The critical 'first partner' in the application is the City of Chicago which will work with POAH in land acquisition, financing, planning and a host of other activities. While POAH and the City of Chicago took main responsibility for the preparation of the application, this process is truly a community effort, involving 20th Ward Alderman Willie Cochran and numerous community organizations, including Woodlawn NCP, Woodlawn Children's Promise Community, and many others. Among the key elements of the proposed transformation plan are:

Housing & Infrastructure
• Demolition of existing, distressed 504-unit Section 8-assisted Grove Parc Plaza complex, with 100% preservation of affordability through 1-for-1 unit replacement onsite or nearby in mixed income settings.
• Creation of Woodlawn Park, a healthier mixed-use, mixed-income community on the former Grove Parc site featuring 420 'green' housing units and 95,000 square feet of retail and community space along the South Cottage Grove Avenue corridor.
• Direct investment in existing Woodlawn multifamily housing stock, including investment in foreclosed and abandoned properties through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) and other programs - supporting the renovation or new construction on vacant sites of a total of 575 'offsite' mixed income dwellings.
•Infrastructure investment in critical community improvement including community space, new parks and green space, transportation infrastructure and a recreational facility.

Education
•The Woodlawn Children's Promise Community (WCPC), in conjunction with the Urban Educations Institute (UEI), has designed a comprehensive educational initiative designed to improve access and outcomes from early childhood through college, for all Woodlawn children.
•The WCPC initiative will deploy field tested UEI early childhood and college readiness programs, extended day programs, expanded access to technology in the classroom and beyond, staffed Help Desks to provide one-stop shopping for WCPC resources and family, and social supports delivered through Jane Addams Hull House - all in the context of overarching school reform and teacher initiatives carried out by WCPC and Chicago Public Schools.

Economic Development
• WCN plans a new 15,000 square foot community resource center at the heart of the Woodlawn Park development that will feature a satellite Center for Working Families, providing tailored skill-building and job connections to assist residents and their neighbors.

•Onsite staff from Jane Addams Hull House will connect assisted residents to a range of programs and services through Hull House, University of Chicago affiliates and other community organizations and religious institutions.

Local hiring will be a key priority during constructions and ongoing operations of proposed WCN developments and the WCN will build job placement programs with key employers including University of Chicago.

Public Safety
The WCN will implement a coordinated gang violence initiative that incorporates a range of national gang intervention best practices, and provides resources for safety-related capital improvements in the neighborhood.
•The initiative will integrate data-tested anti-gang enforcement strategies - including more intensive community policing and coordination with 'civilian community watch,' block clubs and parent school patrols; abatement of nuisance properties and gang headquarters in coordination with planned NSP development efforts - with expanded support, services, education and alternative activities for youth.

The Partners:
•Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc. (POAH) is the Lead Applicant for the CNI, with the City of Chicago as its Co-Applicant.
•In addition, the Woodlawn Children's Promise Community, the Woodlawn New Communities Program, and Jane Addams Hull House Association are key partners leading the WCN's education, community engagement, and resident services components. Chicago is one of just five cities nationwide to receive the first-ever Implementation Grants awarded under HUD's ChoiceNeighborhoods Initiative, a new strategic approach intended to help transform high-poverty, distressed neighborhoods into communities with healthy, affordable housing, safe streets, and access to quality educational opportunities. Chicago joins Boston , New Orleans , San Francisco and Seattle to receive a combined $122 million.

One of the recent conflicts has been over notice to the 61st St. Community gardeners that the garden has to move. detailed studies and opinions on the consequences and alternatives are in our 61st Street Community Garden page.

Also, the Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic has been threatened with closure to save money, and has trouble hiring staff-- but in Feb. 201 were said by Dr. Choucair to be safe from closure.

A very different kind of interaction is that of the now up and going Woodlawn Collaborative in First Presbyterian. And the staff of the UC's Woodlawn high school has been engaging the students in learning and documenting assets and safe places in their neighborhoods while MAGIC and other projects continue to work collaboratively with youth.

Dear Sustainability Partners--The CKP is pleased to be collaborating with the Brickyard Garden, Architreasures, and the Christ's Way MB Church on the Woodlawn Youth Solutions program. Please check out their blog at woodlawnyouth.blogspot.com Best, Bart

Bart Schultz
Director of the Civic Knowledge Project
Senior Lecturer in the Humanities
and Special Programs Coordinator at the Graham School of General Studies
University of Chicago
http://civicknowledge.uchicago.edu

In an interview in the Herald, UC President Zimmer reconfirmed commitment not to expand south of 61st Street. He noted that use of the South Campus is becoming more dense.

The January 16 2009 Maroon encouraged the University to pursue retail in South Campus or beyond, in a way that is helpful and responsible to Woodlawn residents, including employment.

Lifelong Woodlawn resident Wallace Goode has been selected Director of the University Community Service Center. His network with nonprofit and community organizations and the city are enormous. He wants people to develop their multicultural experience and share it.

Ken Warren is now Deputy Provost for Minority Issues. His goal is to weave diversity into the outlook and fabric of the University.

The Woodlawn High UC charter school has been launched in the Wadsworth School. Details in UC and Schools.

Up and coming is Nu Stage Theater in Woodlawn, a remnant of now-defunct Chicago Theater Company that seeks to engage and teach children and teens in theater and theater production. Proprietor Kevin Holt and Director Peter Chatman have great experience and talent.

Top

Introductory essay and summary of media coverage and essays: what are some of the problems, trends and players in Woodlawn dynamics? How does the presence and policies of the University of Chicago fit into the present and future of Woodlawn?

See also South Campus Plan. U C South Campus Plan website.

"The poor face wretched housing choices while investors profit"- Chicago Tribune headline, late November, 2004.

by Gary Ossewaarde

Woodlawn has continued to go through pains and self-searching during redevelopment. Some think it's too little too slow with stalled housing (at least affordable) and shopping and other commercial venues so far left out of the mix despite plans to substitute development on Cottage west of Cottage at 63rd for lost/deliberately excluded commercial on 63rd east of Cottage. Others say there is too much gentrification housing and a vast income divide in Woodlawn, which lost 2/3 of its population between 1970 and 1990. Some want the University to do even more than its greatly increased presence--from health, schools, rebate-price housing for its staff, redevelopment expertise, and some job help to extension of University Police presence south to 64th Street. Others still resent the past and want the University out of anywhere south of 61st. Main forces for change- The Woodlawn Organization social service, business and political organization, Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corporation (WP&IC) including its New Communities Program (ref. Karen King and Willie Cochran) (with UC involvement), Bishop Brazier's church and social and business organizations, and Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors (WECAN) social service and political organization evoke diverse reactions. Many work together, but others seem to talk past each other. Other organizations of note are the Woodlawn Community Service Organization/Corporation (WCSC, a facility that assists in purchases of such things as school supplies and uniforms and provides a range of social services), the South Side Community Federal Credit Union, Woodlawn Development Associates (started by Hyde Parkers and focusing on cooperative and transitional housing), and the Harris YWCA which is now becoming also a Park District recreational and family center. The WCSC holds monthly open meetings at the Bessie Coleman Library, 731 E. 63rd.

Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference in 2002 hosted a forum called New Directions for Woodlawn, held at the School of Social Service Administration and featuring a forum with the leading organizations followed by discerning audience diagnoses and prognoses.

The Chicago Maroon, The Weekly News, the University Chronicle (official publication), and occasionally the Herald publish in-depth articles on Woodlawn issues and developments. Topics have ranged from documenting University programs and involvement to Woodlawn history, preservation issues (See the St. Gelasius page), transit concerns from Dan Ryan changes to Metra to fears of further Green Line closure, housing and welfare issues. Reports have highlighted successful programs in schools--especially Fiske, Carnegie, and Woodlawn Community (charter) --that offset an otherwise sad schools picture and increased presence of University students and staff, as consumers, transit users, home buyers, and volunteers.

See the South Campus Plan page for reports on a meeting that brought out harsh and agonized rhetoric, some on community issues and frustrations far removed from the topic at hand. It seems to me that touted impact in Woodlawn (such as saying that Woodlawn will be "largely driven" by it) from projects in the South Campus Plan per se are often overblown. The article that follows looks at more relevant potential impacts of university involvement in Woodlawn itself.

In October, 2004, the Maroon reported a reduction or suppression of gang activity, attributed to tactics of the University Police with Chicago Police, said to be tailored to the realities and needs of the community and focused on the heart of modern gang activities, the drug trade and --almost networks or cells of-- robbers. It is significant that community leaders and businessmen, especially the New Communities Program (NCP) of WP&IC, as well as Hank Webber of the University, point to the resulting "improved image" as a bridge to business growth.

The Maroon article quotes NCP leaders as noting a big contrast between how people had to live in terms of crime terror, housing, lack of social services, but say there is still a long way to go. An earlier article quotes leaders of the Credit Union as calling for focus on retail markets on 63rd partly as an increase in community-based jobs and income and to return the vacant land to productive use. they add (as quoted in anther article, that the University needs to come and put in restaurants and more like in Hyde Park. WCSC leaders add that the most serious lack is jobs and, like most of the other community organizations and some churches in the neighborhood host job-training programs, some of which tie into University programs and opportunities. WCSC also sees return of retail as the key to job growth. But most residents have to be referred outside the neighborhood.

One program often cited, a coalition of several organizations, the University and government agencies most noticeably the Chicago Fire Department, is the FACT (first aid care team) team of Hull House (Parkway). It has expanded its emergency medical response team (EMT) training as job-training, especially for present and past CHA residents but open to all residents. The EMT responds to hard-to-reach areas including in CHA that are hard for the Fire Department to reach.

University students are involved in a program called Meals for Affordable Housing/Student Tenant Organizing Project (STOP), a program to empower Woodlawn residents to take control of the housing situation. This group wants residents to buy buildings in the path of development and create student/residents cooperative living arrangements. The idea/program started in conversations between WECAN and a student group Angels of DEF. Current targets for organizing are WECAN owned buildings and the Parc Grove complex (on Cottage Grove, considered by many very poorly run, rundown and likely to be abandoned or sold by WPIC and so closed to the affordable market.

Top

An analysis of the tango between the University and Woodlawn- Maroon October 14, 2005. Continuations follow

By Isaac Wolf

Editorial preface: As Woodlawn, t he community immediately south of the University, becomes more economically and racially contiguous with Hyde Park, residents there and members of the University community are struggling to make sense of the new geographic reality.

In the first of a four part series about Woodlawn, the Maroon reports on the issues of University expansion and relations with our southern neighbors.

____________
Consultants pointed University south

The University reconsidered its 40-year commitment to not acquire property in Woodlawn, the community south of 61st Street, as recently as a year and a half [previous] according to internal documents obtained by the Maroon during a four-month investigation.

Despite what the documents say, top administration officials contend that the University is committed to not going south of 61st Street.

Woodlawn properties were included in a March 2004 Power Point presentation produced by outside consultants and delivered to the board of trustees' community affairs committee meeting--bringing into question the University's longstanding agreement not to purchase property in tha[t] neighborhood.

Vice President of the University and Dean of Students Steve Klass, who was present at the committee meeting, said the presentation was meant to "think outside the box" in terms of expansion options. The discussion following the presentation made clear to the committee that purchasing below 61st Street would break a previous commitment, and cause the University to decide against it, Klass said. He added that the event allowed the University to "reinforce our long-standing commitment to the Woodlawn community."

While University officials continue to maintain that they have no plans to enter Woodlawn, low-income Woodlawn residents, local real estate agents, and community activists are convinced otherwise. Many fear a University presence in Woodlawn will contribute to the real estate renaissance that is pricing longtime residents out of their rental homes and propelling swindlers who try to snatch undervalued, longtime community member-owned property.

Torn between not wanting to interfere with Woodlawn and at the same time recognizing that economic forces could force out poor residents, University administrators expressed great frustration at activists who demand all poor Woodlawn residents have access to affordable housing.

The documents are part of a larger discussion surrounding the often-conflicting priorities of University expansion and relations with surrounding communities, and underlie the notion that, according to Klass, "large organizations--particularly those in the business of ground-breaking research, knowledge creation and dissemination, and healthcare--have a responsibility to ask those questions on a regular basis."

Invading city hall

Mayor Daley was at wits end. Tension between the University of Chicago and the surrounding community was roiling and activists were taking their grievances to him. Hundreds of community protestors had "invaded" city hall in a July sit-in demonstration, demanding a "flat, unqualified commitment" that University growth to the south be connected to a commitment to low-income housing.

The year was 1963. The community organization was the Temporary Woodlawn Organization (TWO, now The Woodlawn Organization), a group rallying for real estate assurances and funding for social programs for Woodlawn's low-income community.

"The responsibility for equitable relocation rests with t he University," said TwO's leader, Arthur Brazier. "But unless there has been a moral conversion by our good friends across the Midway, we must see to it that they live up to their duty."

When the mayor, University officials, and TWO finally coalesced, they agreed that the University would not acquire land or develop south of 61st Street. The meeting also resulted in the development and building of the public housing complex that would come to be known as Grove Parc Plaza, the honeycomb of apartments on Cottage Grove Avenue from 62st to 63rd streets.*

*The University also leased to TWO for a dollar a stretch along Stony Island between 60th and 61st.

The University, for its part, was able to execute its south campus plan, building the School of Social Service Administration and expanding facilities into the south campus. This episode, as recorded in the annals of the Maroon, ensured Woodlawn's independence, and made the task of low-income housing easier, since organizers did not have to worry about the University encroaching into their community.

STOP

Considered a historic moment in urban organization, the 1963 agreement has been brought into question by low-income Woodlawn residents and activists. Members of the Student/Tenant Organizing Project (STOP) increasingly say the University might acquire land south of 61st Street, and argue that this development will price the low-income residents out of their homes.

STOP, which includes University students, recent alumni, and Woodlawn community members, cites the University's plans to build a $100 million dorm, parking garage, and arts center south of the Midway but north of 61st Street. They say the University is reshaping its campus to the south with an eye on the Green Line stop at 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.

According to STOP, the University may be securing property in Woodlawn to build into the future and that this, in turn, is one of the factors ratcheting up the cost of living in Woodlawn.

Organizational lines are being chiseled in Woodlawn as STOP has embarked on a campaign to undercut an expansive program--which the University is involved in--to improve the community.

Against the mounting drumbeat of criticism, University officials have repeated their commitment to not meddle in Woodlawn politics or take property beyond the south boundary. They cite the University's involvement in community enhancement programs, which included the creation of charter schools, as proof that they have good intentions for Woodlawn.

But the University is not the only institution in a land squeeze: As cities nationwide se real estate values increase, the premium on acquiring property makes many options more tempting--especially moving into poorer areas.

For low-income residents in Chicago, the real estate crunch looks particularly painful. The City of Chicago is in the process of tearing down 16,000 public housing units, and there is currently a subsidized-housing waiting is in Illinois of at least 60,000, according to several media reports, including the Associated Press.

Priority area 2

STOP's recent indictment of the University began with a March 2004 Power Point presentation, obtained from a University worker and confirmed by President Don Randel, titled "A Strategy for Property Acquisition." According to University officials, the presentation was commissioned from an outside consulting firm given the task of evaluating all possible expansion options for the University. The consultants' finding specifically discuss the University's options for increasing real estate holdings and include property south of 61st Street.

One slide describes the Grove Parc public housing complex, and says that the area "provides 2, 500,000 gross square feet; strengthens connections to mass transit; [and provides opportunities for] additional commercial amenities."

Grove Parc, a public housing project infamous for its crime and drugs, is located on Cottage Grove Avenue between 61st and 63rd streets. The housing project sits between the University and Green Line subway, deterring the University community member from using the only subway line within walking distance of campus. [Ed. more on Grove Parc in article on November 14 2004 forum, below]

The consultants' presentation lists the Grove Parc area under the heading of "Priority Area 2," or "properties to purchase over the next decade" that are meant to "meet anticipated needs for the next 10 to 40 years."

The University has grown by 9,500,000 square feet since 1950, according to the document, which notes that Columbia University and Harvard University have grown at similar clips of about 2, 000,00 square feet each decade over the last 60 years. "Now is the time to obtain additional land near the campus for expansions in student life, research and teaching facilities," the document reads. "In recommending this strategy, we proceed from the assumption that the rapid redevelopment of the South Side of Chicago means that land not obtained now will be very difficult to obtain in the future."

Inherent contradiction

According to STOP organizers, this presentation highlights an inherent contradiction in the University's publicly articulated real estate policy. Whatever the University says publicly is belied by its need for more property--a demand that will inevitably be satisfied by going south, said Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle, an organizer in STOP. "What this means is that the University has a long-term interest in that property," Ginsberg-Jaeckle said.

Ginsberg-Jaeckle added that the University is waiting for community resistance to subside before it moves south. "The U of C can wait out anyone," he said. "They have the deepest pockets. Our responsibility is to create an infrastructure of community leaders to fight them."

According to Larry Arbeiter, director of University communication, real estate advisors have repeatedly told the University to break the agreement. "Consultants have since [1963] often suggested that purchasing land in this area would be an efficient solution to future space needs, but in every case, the University's leadership has decided not to re-open that question with the community," he said.

Arbeiter said that if the University decides to break the 1963 agreement, it would engage in "an open, extended and inclusive process involving community leaders, elected officials, and the city of Chicago."

Red herring

Randel called the documents a "red herring," saying that they were meant only to illustrate the University's relationship with the surrounding community."This is just a way to showing 'so what's he environment we can operate in,'" he said. Randel added, "What this document means is, we have looked around the neighborhood, and asked 'What should we do?' One of the conclusions from looking around is that we decided we're going to continue to abide by the principle of not going south of 61st Street.

Randel said that the University would not treat Woodlawn the way Columbia University treated its surrounding communities in New York City. According to the Columbia Spectator, the University's student newspaper, Columbia paid a real estate firm $300,00 to investigate using eminent domain to secure property in the area.

It certainly came up

According to Hank Webber, vice president of Community and Government Affairs, the University considered going south of 61st Street as part of the Master Plan, which is meant to forecast the University's growth until 2020. "It certainly came up, but we made a very firm decision," he said. "We made it during the Master Plan process. we've made a decision and we're standing by it; we're not buying property south of 61st Street. I'm not saying it hasn't come up, but this is our decision in the 2020 plan."

The doctors, the richer people

Woodlawn residents see as different reality. In a dozen random interviews at homes, community businesses, and street corners, Woodlawn residents said they believed their homes were in jeopardy because of skyrocketing rent.

Audry Clay, who lives at 62nd Street and Woodlawn Avenue thinks there is as good possibility she will have to relocate because of increasing rent prices. "There are a whole lot of doctors and other people that might want to live here," she said, "and that makes it impossible for regular people to pay the rent." Clay said she thinks the University is intentionally trying to change the community's composition. "It's done on purpose to drive out the people who live here," she said. "They want the doctors, the richer people, to move in." Clay, who is not afraid of being displaced because she has relatives across Chicago, sees a possibility to create a mixed income Woodlawn community.

Clay said the key would be more Section-8 vouchers, or federally backed housing coupons. "With section-8, you can live anywhere you want to because the rent is going to be paid--even if it's going up," said Clay, who does not receive vouchers. Without section-8 vouchers, Clay said, low-income families would be driven out of Woodlawn. "It's impossible for the average person to be able to afford," she said. "I think it's good for bringing the neighborhood up, but it drives us out."

When we speak

Webber said he had no idea why Woodlawn community members believed the University might encroach upon their community; he pointed to a University letter, written by him and Director of Community Affairs Sonya Malunda nd sent to Woodlawn residents in October 2004. The letter, meant to dispel rumors and solicit input, announced the University's architectural plans for the south campus.

"I don't understand how people can be suspicious," Webber said. "When we speak, we speak. The changes in Woodlawn will work for a large number of the people there." Webber would not say what a "large number" was. "That's crystal balling," he said. "The goal is, can we create a large number of opportunities for residents who stay, who choose to stay?"

Nowhere to go

Noble Davis, who works in Woodlawn by live a few blocks to the north, echoed the fears of many of his neighbors when he said he thinks the University is trying to acquire housing property for its hospital workers. "It seems like the University is trying to make it more convenient for them," he said. "But at the same time, it's putting a lot of people out. You put them out and they don't have anywhere to go."

Davis said Woodlawn is seeing an influx of middle to upper middle class professionals moving into condos, which current residents simply can't afford. " I don't think it's fair they come into the community and evict everybody," he said. "If you have kids, it's that much harder to move."

Rocket science

According to Derrick Williams, a real estate agent with properties around Woodlawn, the South Side is experience a renaissance. Williams described a white-flight-in-reverse situation, where "all the people who felt they needed to move to the suburbs to get away from the city" are coming back, he said. "They want to be near the lake and have close accessibility to downtown," Williams said. "It's more important for them to live on top of each other than to stay out in the suburbs."

While driving through Hyde Park and Woodlawn, Williams explained that the real estate boom in the South Side coincides with the University's need to acquire property to the south or west--or both. "The University's growing," he said. "It can't grow to the east, the lake's there. It can't grow north--the area is already settled, landlocked. It can only grow to the west and south. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that they can only go that way," Williams said as he waved his hands south, "and that way, " he said, waving his hands west.

Williams said the University could be using a shell company to silently buy up property in Woodlawn. "It only makes sense," he said. "You've got the Midway right here, and there's open land all around us."

Arbeiter quashed the argument that the University uses holding companies to purchase property quietly in Woodlawn and said rumors like this harm the University's standing in the community.

"All of the land we own is held in the name of the University, and we engage in on secret-use purchases," he said. "We also have a policy that any University action that could involve displacement of individuals will result in those persons being materially better off than before."

Not wise

Also defending the University was Karen King, who directs the umbrella effort of community revitalization in Woodlawn, dubbed the New Communities Program (NCP). King said the University, which is one of three organizations, is not positioning itself to move into Woodlawn. "That's not the vibe I'm getting from them," she said.

Rather, King said, it is in the University's best interest to promote programs to make Woodlawn stronger for its current residents. "It's just not a wise move on the part of the University to try to dominate anything," King said. "Their best move institutionally is to support local initiatives."

[Note, Steve Klass said in October 2005 that he thinks the new dorm at 61st will draw students out of the rest of Woodlawn, reducing rent pressure. He also re-iterated that the University is in no way buying up property in Woodlawn.]

Top

Continuation of series:

From the October 21 2005 Maroon: From article by Ethan Frenchman. This page does not necessarily vouch for conclusions drawn here.

...Since the [previous] article's release, administration official have reiterated that they have no plans to violate the University's agreement with Woodlawn. Yet, knowledge of the presentation [of March 2004] has "further increased the distrust between community members and the University," said Alex Goldenberg, a coordinator for the Student/Tenant Organizing Project (STOP) and a fourth-year in the College.

A large community outcry followed the initial release of the document in June 2004, resulting in a victory for STOP, as University officials signed a pledge that September to not expand the University south of 61st Street."

Officials maintain that the needs of the community are a top priority of the University. "We want to continue to work with the community to see how we can have a positive influence," said Steve Klass, vice president of the University and dean of students. Hank Webber, vice president of Community Affairs, said the University "supports the development of Woodlawn as a mixed-income community of high standards which offers real opportunities for long-time residents...The University will develop its south campus between 60th and 61st street in ways that met the University's needs but are sensitive to community needs...The University will not extend south of 61st Street."

Many students continue to trust the University even after having learned of the proposition to move south of 61st Street...

Many community members are watching real-estate transactions in their neighborhood closely, Goldenberg said. "If the University tries to break their promise, the whole community will be watching."

University president Don Randel sought to dispel rumors that the University is surreptitiously obtaining land south of 61st Street. "Both Harvard and Columbia have used shadow corporations to purchase land. The university does not and will not do that," Randel said.

The administration does not believe that there is a credibility gap...."The vast majority of members of the University community believe the University is sincere in it repeated assertions as well as by demonstrated history that it is not moving south of 61st Street," said Webber.

Both administration and community members feel strongly about the need for dialogue. While Klass said the University is in "constant communication with Woodlawn," some critics hope for a larger, more open debate. Many critics of the University see the article as a way to make students and members of the University aware of the issues and take pat in the debate....

_______________
This article, by Isaac Wolf in the same issue, looks at problems of price and rent pressure on low income and less affording residents of Woodlawn, looks for ties to the University, and calls attention to lack of firm information and statistics, as well as lack of remedies-although there are "affordable opportunities" out there.

Chamar Brown had 40 days to get out... the reason: Brown's landlord is renovating the building into condos or luxury apartments.." Everyone knows the property value is going up because the University's expanding," he said. "Why are they [landlords] not making them more affordable? You just can't kick people out of the neighborhood. You can't tell a man he has to go."

Brown said that landlords in Woodlawn and across the South Side are getting greedier. "They're slumlords,...they're just putting up new buildings and pushing all the poor people out to a new place. You're just recreating the projects....Sooner or later, the minority's going to be out. The keep pushing the minority out."

Citywide, there has been an influx of new market-rate homes, with real estate agents saying Chicago is experiencing an urban renaissance. Low income Woodlawn residents--like poor residents in other neighborhoods--are increasingly worried about their future in the community.

Renters like Brown cite the rising monthly prices as proof that they will be forced out. Some long-time homeowners, meanwhile, have had their homes "stolen" out from under them, turning over their deeds to land-grabbers for far less than the true value.

All civic organizations involved in Woodlawn, including the University, are unequivocal in their support for low-income housing. But they also say there is no way to assure a set number of low-income houses, citing the economic realities of the real estate market. Woodlawn residents who own homes, especially young people who inherited houses and have little experience caring for property, are losing their real estate to taxes and aggressive speculators, who offer small but alluring quantities of hard cash in exchange for property deeds.

Renters face a different situation. The are being squeezed as monthly fees tick upward, and must either cope with higher prices or find cheaper places to live. The housing picture in Woodlawn is muddied by a paucity of concrete information, different community groups say, but they make clear threat the sizzling real estate market could drive residents out.

The dinosaurs of Woodlawn, seniors getting screwed

...'Tony' said that low-income residents would be flushed from Woodlawn within the next three years. "Come back in 2008. You won't see any of us...no black people, unless they've got money. We'll be dinosaurs."

Karen King, the director of the Woodlawn New Communities Program (NCP) the umbrella organization for community redevelopment, said that this type of land grab is happening all over the community. "When you hear about seniors selling their homes for a quarter of what they're worth, it's like, 'You're getting screwed,'" she said.

According to 2000 U.S. Census data, almost 30 percent of the owner-occupied homes in Woodlawn are less than $70,000. More than 35 percent of the homes are between $70,00 to $100,000. To protect homeowners from selling their homes far below market value, the NCP is developing programs and newsletter to teach Woodlawn resident owners about responsible homeownership.

While community institutions are working to minimize the number of poor residents who might be forced out, King said it is very possible that some will leave Woodlawn. "People here don't understand that if I have a piece of property, a three flat or something, and I want to sell it or turn it into condos, there's nothing that can stop me unless I'm breaking the law," King said. "People here don't understand the reality of economics, and we have to do a better job to educate them."

Housing database

Several different groups are working to create clearinghouses of information about Woodlawn. King said that the NCP is developing a database for low-income housing opportunities and a housing center. "There's all kinds of stuff here, buildings that are partially low and moderate housing," she said. "Quite frankly, it's phenomenal what we are finding."

Sonya Malunda, the University's director of Community Affairs, said Woodlawn needs a better system of tracking and managing the supply of affordable housing. "What's missing here is some type of affordably housing database so we can track the number of affordable housing units in Woodlawn," she said. "We know there's a demand. There's a citywide, nationwide demand for affordable housing. In Woodlawn in particular, we want to ask: Where is the current supply, and what can we do to support the preservation of that affordable housing?"

Alex Goldenberg [with STOP] said that his group is currently compiling information about housing in Woodlawn. [The article says that STOP is trying to undercut the broadbased program for community improvement. In a rebuttal article, Courtney Douglas of STOP says that it rather wants to include the perspectives of the low-income and has arranged a meeting between People of Woodlawn and the redevelopment umbrella.]

Renters

For renters, King admitted there was no clear solution to rising prices. King said that the community has probably seen an increase in Section-8 voucher residents because woodlawn landlords have grown to accept the arrangement, in which they receive part of the rent from residents and part from government subsidy. But low-income residents not on vouchers--and those who simply have cheap apartments--are in a bind. "The landlord's taxes are going up and the property's getting more valuable," she said. "It's a really difficult situation, and we haven't figures it out. It's something that should be vetted."

Stringing us out-Grove Parc. No plans to close.

The largest public housing complex in Woodlawn is Grove Parc Plaza, a 504-unit honeycomb of low-rise apartment buildings along Cottage Grove Avenue. Conceived during the University's negotiations with the Temporary Woodlawn Organization (TWO) during the early '60s, Grove Parc is the center of conversation about low income housing in Woodlawn. Its closing would drastically alter the real estate picture--both for low-income residents looking for housing, and for real estate developers considering the overall quality of the neighborhood.

Residents said living conditions are deplorable [from rats to leaks to ringworm to lead paint...Monique [fearful to use her last name] said she dose not care if Grove Parc is closed or if she is forced out. "All we care about is fixing the apratments...The management, they're stringing us out." Tiana...said there are rumors that the building will close. "Every year they tell us different stuff....But right now they're nit-picking, kicking out people who break the smallest rules so they don't have to give as many Section-8 vouchers when they decide to close."

Rudy Nimocks, chairman of the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corporation, which owns the complex, admitted that the buildings need extensive work but said there is not enough funding. He defended the buildings, however, and said they had never failed an inspection.

If Grove Parc is closed, the Section-8 building subsidies might not be replaced elsewhere in the neighborhood, King said. "Closing Grove Parc would inundated Woodlawn with low [income] people...The community needs Grove Pr, because it would be very difficult for the people who live there now to find enough other places to live in Woodlawn." [Courtney Douglas with STOP also points out why "more section 8s" is a very weak reed for either individuals or the community to rely on.]

Nimocks said there are no immediate plans to renovate or close Grove Parc. "We're going to be trying to find a better way for Grove Parc.... We need to find out how much it will cost to do certain changes over there.. It's going to take a lot of money to make changes--more money than Grove Parc can generate." Nimocks said that the biggest problem at Grove Parc is criminal activity and drug trafficking. He noted that officers have identified 65 to 60 apartments that are drug dens or the homes of drug dealers. "It was a shoddily built place in the first place," he said. "Some of that shoddiness is coming to the fore."

Starbucks on each corner

Nimocks said he does not foresee any low-income residents being priced out of Woodlawn. Visions of Woodlawn as a yuppie community with a Starbucks on each corner are simply incorrect, he argued, and the demand for high-end homes will not be great enough to push out the low-income residents. "I'm concerned, but there's only so much that each organization can do," he said. "We don't have complete control over the prices of homes."

Nimocks said that it is impossible to tell at this point what the demand is for low-income housing. "Looking into my crystal ball, I don't know how many apartments are going to be built in Woodlawn that you can rent with a voucher," he said. "I don't think anyone knows. As this neighborhood renovation goes on, maybe those number will come out. But right now, I don't think anyone has the foggiest."

Top

Continuation of series, Part III, November 15, 2005

Organizations seek to revitalize Woodlawn: Groups target neighborhood business, housing for improvement.

When Rudy Nimocks moved into Woodlawn in 1952, his family's home was in a desirable, mixed-income community. "It was very stable, a very nice place to live," he said. Over the years, Nimocks said, Woodlawn fell into disrepair. Middle class residents moved out. Homes rotted. Lots became vacant. Drug peddling and drug consumption flourished, and along with them came violent crime. "It became practically a ghetto," Nimocks said. "The neighborhood just went completely down."

Since moving to Woodlawn, Nimocks has become the director of the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) and chairman of the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corporation (WPIC), and organization dedicated to community improvement that is the lead agency behind the Woodlawn New Communities Program (NCP).

Established organizations, including WPIC and NCP, are working to revitalize Woodlawn into a vibrant mixed-income neighborhood. But newer groups have taken root, saying current development does not reflect the interests of Woodlawn residents and demanding more representation for the poor.

WPIC was formed in 1989 to help Woodlawn become a better neighborhood, according to Nimocks. The organization bought Grove Parc, the public housing complex rife with drugs and crime, from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for a negligible amount of money, Nimocks said.

"We knew that if it was taken over by developers, then all the people there on subsidized housing would be gone," he said. WPIC fought in the 1990s to have the elevated 63rd Street Green Line tracks, which harbored prostitution and drug peddling, removed from Cottage Grove Avenue to Dorchester Avenue, according to Nimocks. "It was a forboding corridor, a canyon out there,"Nimocks said.

WPIC has worked to renovate 63rd Street, which has recently seen condos built along it, and still has swaths of open land where the Green Line tracks once sat. "The restoration of 63rd Street is pivotal to bringing Woodlawn back," Nimocks said. "We also foresee a new shopping center." According to Metro Edge, a market intelligence firm, Woodlawn "leaks" about $90 million in potential revenue each year because of a lack of local business.

Along with WPIC's call for real estate development in Woodlawn is NCP. It is an initiative to strengthen Chicago neighborhoods through business, real estate, employment, and education. Woodlawn NCP is backed by three organizations: WPIC, the University of Chicago, and the Woodlawn Organization (TWO). NCP started in November, 2003, and will run until May 2010, with the possibility for an extension.

Woodlawn NCP director Karen King has high hopes for the program, but knows the community has a long way to go. "There's no social life here, there's no cultural life here, there's not enough businesses here," she said.

In May 2005, the Woodlawn NCP published a report, "Woodlawn: Rebuilding the Village." The quality of life report described living conditions in Woodlawn and presented a working list of eight strategies, including youth programming, education, business opportunities, and the creation of affordable housing. The report is the lynchpin for the future of Woodlawn because it is the working document of the Woodlawn NCPO, which is, in turn the umbrella organization of development.

The report lists 47 projects, which include creating a chamber of commerce, opening a center for working families, and developing two new charter schools. "To become a community of choice will require a full range of social and recreational amenities, safe streets, high-quality education for people of all ages, and an even stronger sense that Woodlawn is a tightly knit community, where residents know each other and work together," according to the report, which includes several neighborhood improvement projects like an injury-free playground, live-work space for artists, and health fairs and screenings. Another focus for the NCP is an integrated child-care program, in which youth are not segregated along wealth lines.

Another group that supports much of the NCP's work but is also highly critical of it is the Student/Tenant Organizing Project (STOP). One of STOP's priorities has been to forestall the conversion of the Woodlawn Redevelopment Number TWO project, according to STOP organizer and fourth-year in the College Alex Goldenberg.

The project, championed by the real estate wing of TWO, would transform about 100 units of Section-8 public housing units into market-rate homes, Goldenberg said. He cited a letter sent to residents in January saying the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) might not renew the affordable housing contracts.

"A few people moved out because they were threatened," Goldenberg said. "That letter tells us their agenda is to turn these apartments into market rate buildings." Earlier this month, management told tenants they had to be out by next May so the buildings could be converted to condos, Goldenberg said.

Goldenberg said STOP has been trying to get Leon Finney, the chairman of TWO, to commit publicly that he will not transform the buildings. Finney did not return multiple calls to comment for this article.

University officials, when discussing their involvement in the NCP, are quick to note that they are a "minority partner." The University's role is largely to provide space, expertise, or technical assistance for the NCP, according to Sonya Malunda, the University's director of Community Affairs.

The University also has a program to help employees purchase homes, offering financial advice and a $7,500 forgivable loan, Malunda said. There are currently 70 employees enrolled in the prog dam, and Malunda expects another 20 more by the end of the academic year. "It's our way of saying 'we're in a wonderful community,'" Malunda said. "It's a redeveloping community in many ways. What can we do as an institution so our employees who aren't already living here are able to purchase homes?'

According to Hank Webber, the vice president for Community Affairs, about 40 percent of the participants in the program purchased homes in Woodlawn. Malunda said the program has targeted middle-income employees, and it includes single mothers and first-time homeowners. "We're trying to make purchasing a home a reality," she said. "Without our help it would just be a dream. We're trying to turn dreams into reality."

But STOP said that community organizations should take more responsibility for the economic forces driving out low-income Woodlawn residents. "It's a cop-out to blame displacement on economic forces," said Goldenberg. "When you build housing, property taxes go up. It gets more expensive everywhere in the community. The real estate organizations here definitely have control over changes in th housing economy."

To keep a place for current residents, Goldenberg estimates that 25-40 percent of all new home units would have to be designated low income. Citing the Balanced Development Coalition, Goldenberg said development should be split evenly between market rate homes, "affordable" homes, and low-income rentals.

When asked why developers would want to designate such a large fraction of their investments for low-income residents and therefore lose extra revenue, Goldenberg said development in the community would still be a winning investment.

STOP, which has received grants from the Ford Foundation and the Woods Fund, is active in developing organizers and homegrown activists who can articulate their desires for Woodlawn. Many of the NCP's projects are worthwhile but none create strong community leaders, Goldenberg said. He gave employment as an example. "Instead of having a job fair or training, we would start a research campaign to learn about the economy, understand why there was a lack of jobs in this area, and then work to develop them." Goldenberg said."It's a basic distinction of social service providing versus organizing."

The University is the largest employer on the South Side, employing about 13,000 people, according to Larry Arbeiter, director of University communications. "Our presence here supports numerous small businesses and landlords in the community," Arbeiter said. He noted that an important part of the current campus plan is the University's business diversity program, which has provided more tha $100 million of contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses in Chicago in the last six years.

Top

Continuation of the series. Part IV, November 29 2005, Groups struggle for consensus in Woodlawn

By Isaac Wolf

The University hosted a conference in January 2005 to promote artistic and nonprofit development across the South Side. At the conference, "Enhancing Assets," the University's award-winning art historian Martha Ward gave a lecture on curatorship. Following her talk, a Chicago cultural policy expert lectured on the private galleries and collections across the South Side.

What happened next was a striking moment for Dean of Humanities Danielle Allen. "The museums discussed were five minutes from Cochrane-Woods," said Allen, referring to the art center on campus. "This professor, Marty Ward, an expert art historian sitting beside me, had no idea they existed. It as in her backyard," Allen, who is also executive director of the group that hosted the conference said. "She was intrigued by and and interested in what she was seeing," Allen said. "She was grateful to learn about the private galleries." This was one example given by Allen of the University's disconnect with the South Side. "There are pockets of knowledge," she said. "There's not a lot of flow."

Allen's organization, the Civic Knowledge Project (CKP) , is working to interconnect the University with the surrounding communities. The idea behind her project is that successful democracies gather strength from their ability to generate "remarkable rapid knowledge transmission across geographic and social barriers," she writes on the CKP website.

"A central goal of the Civic Knowledge Project," she continued, "is to lead the University in generating modes of knowledge transmission between itself and its surrounding knowledge communities that might help jump start, in places where it has broken down or has never existed, the process of cultural circulation and mutual influence that is crucial to socioeconomic mobility and fluidity, and successful democratic practice.

The CKP is not a one-way street, and the South Side communities have important expertise to share with the University. "First-year students don't know the South Side," Allen said. "They don't know how to move around, where to find good food and music." Similarly, she said, "The University administration doesn't know what people in the surrounding community are thinking and doing."

While the CKP works to stitch together University and community voices, other community organizations have less harmonious relationships, and there appears to be a breakdown in the ability to create a forum including all groups.

Criticism of community improvement plans by the Student/Tenant Organizing Project (STOP) reflects a struggle between community organizations to gain the voice of Woodlawn residents and illustrates the difficulty in communication among civic groups.

"Who's defining the political lay of the land is who's got a leadership role in it, " Allen said, adding that she has never seen a forum or conversation about Woodlawn that has encompassed all different views.* One of the biggest challenges has always been to make sure the conversation is broad enough," she said.

STOP organizers say community forums are rigged against introducing ideas outside what the established organizations want to hear. One of STOP's projects has been to organize a "town hall" forum to discuss Woodlawn issues--but in what STOP deems a fair environment. University and community representatives have refused to come, according to organizer and fourth-year in the college Alex Goldenberg. "They knew we were going to push them on issues they didn't want to be pushed on," Goldenberg said. "They're interested in a lot of dialogue that doesn't mean anything, that doesn't have accountability.

The [New Communities Program] NCP has included the participation of 300 Woodlawn residents, according to the May 2005 report. Hank Webber, the vice president for Community Affairs, said there is a place at the University for students and alumni who care about the community but have different views. He said the University believes the two-year New Communities Program (NCP) planning process was t he "best existing consensus of the hopes of Woodlawn residents," and included recommendations to preserve low-income homes. " I am disappointed that STOP did not participate in this community-based process," Webber said.

Karen King, the NCP director, took a different stance, saying that criticism was understandable. Between the last community meeting in June 2004 and the report's publication in May 2005, there was an almost year-long lack of communication, King said. "There was a vacuum, and in that vacuum people believed they were being left out," she said.

King said efforts are being made to address the concerns of Woodlawn residents ho have shifted toward STOP, and she hopes they will return to NCP. "This is very inclusive," she said. "It will be steered toward them." King says she knows Woodlawn residents worry their interests are not being represented, but think the benefits of NCP will shine. "I know people are afraid," she said. "But when you talk about schools being improved, those are schools people's children attend. When you talk about activities for seniors or after-school programs for kids, that's for everyone."

Two hundred Woodlawn residents have become involved in STOP, Goldenberg said. He said that the NCP has adopted some of of STOP's agenda, including workshops on tenant's rights and the rights of subsidized housing. "The NCP" stands for something much bigger than that document," he said of the May 2005 Quality of Life Plan. "It stands for a continuation of the history of exclusion in the shaping of the people of Woodlawn's future."

Goldenberg said that the NCP is a power-play, and he said the same ting is happening all over Chicago. "It's not a question of 'is the NCP going to get power' or 'is the University going to get power,'" he said. "It's a question of 'are the people going to get power.' At the end of the day, it isn't possible for both to have power," Goldenberg added.

Some, including President Don Randel, were critical of STOP. When presented the March 2004 PowerPoint presentation that STOP members leaked to the Maroon, Randel called the group "a campaign to make us [University administrators involved in real estate] look like the monsters that we aren't" Randel also said, "There's a kind of conspiracy theory, and some of your classmates, your former classmates, are trying to stir that pot by acquiring this set of documents. I would guess by illicit means."

Rudy Nimocks, the chairman of WPIC and a Woodlawn resident since 1952, used stronger words to respond to STOP's accusation that not all residents are included in NCP. "That's bullshit," Nimocks said."It was done by people in the community, people I've known for years and years and years." Nimocks said that no one had been left out of the planning process, and any Woodlawn resident could have been involved.

His message to STOP members: "Where were they when the five-year plan was being developed? he said., referring to the May 2005 NCP report. "They come after this thing is complete and say, 'Well, we don't like it and we weren't involved.' But why weren't you involved? Where were you? Nimocks added, "Now we're in the implementation stage. We've formed committees, and now we're executing ideas. Now we're changing the community."

[*This editor has been at at least 3 such forums, sometimes close to shouting matches, where a huge variety of views were expressed and debated in detail, although certainly with nothing close to consensus emerging or avoiding lightning-rodism, and it is very difficult to get large numbers from deep Woodlawn in attendance.] Top

 

 

February 16, 2007 Maroon article. Rocky past, neighborhood influence development plans. By Sara Jerome

Discussions continue both on campus and in the community as to whether the University has negotiated a balance between executing its development strategies and preserving the Woodlawn neighborhood in its southward campus construction projects.

Development plans south of the Midway include the creation of a new dorm, the Center for Creative and Performing Arts, parking and office facilities on Drexel and Woodlawn Avenues, and renovations to the Law School and to the former Illinois Bell Telephone building on Kenwood Avenue.

Improving Midway landscaping is also on the development agenda. The Campus Master Plan includes blueprints for a South Winter Garden between South Plaisance Drive and East 60th Street that will resemble current gardens on the Midway.

Hank Webber, the University's vice president for Community Affairs, said the school has worked hard to establish an open dialogue width locals about south campus development. In an effort to build ties with the surrounding neighborhood, the University plans to pen the new dorm's cafe and dining hall to the public. "The goal over time is to have a vibrant campus edge," Webber said. "We're committed to the Woodlawn community."

Upon assuming office, President Robert Zimmer addressed communal wariness of University expansion, reaffirming the school's promise not to expand south o feast 61st street, as laid out in a civil rights-era agreement with Woodlawn community organizers.

Nevertheless, the University faces ongoing criticism from locals wary of the school's expansion. "Those who have a negative image see the University as encroaching within their neighborhood, encouraging the gentrification of the neighborhood, patrolling their neighborhood not for the residents, but for the University community that now lives in their neighborhood," said Wallace Goode, associate dean of students and director of the University Community Service Center.

"Local interest in University development stems from a belief that the school's decisions have a major impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. "Where does an 800-pound gorilla sleep? Goode asked. "When we hiccup, the repercussions are felt [in the community]."

Webber called th e University "an anchor institution" that exerts "a large economic influence" on the area. He said that 20 to 25 percent of housing transactions in Hyde Park involve people connected to the University. Of the University's 14,000 employees, 4,000 live in the area, according to Webber.

Alderman Leslie Hairston of Ward 5 said despite its considerable influence in Woodlawn, the University is falling short in terms of positive contributions. She said Woodlawn could "use the resources the University could provide" and that the U of C has the potential to build a stronger community just south of it, rather than looking north toward "the upper class."

University officials sometimes downplay the University's impact on surrounding neighborhoods."We view ourselves as one of the citizens of Hyde Park, one of the components. We don't get to decide [the future of the community]," Zimmer said at a brownbag lunch [in early 1007].

Webber spoke in the same vein when he described the University's activities as just one factor that shapes the neighborhood, pointing to other causes involved in rising housing costs. "There are lots of forces that affect housing markets. The University is one, but there are many. To assume that the University drives those things is [an incomplete view]," Webber said.

Instead, Webber pointed to the federal government as the institution that's falling short in the affordable housing arena. "The fed hasn't been nearly as active in the last decade as they have been previously," he said, adding that "there are very rapid changes happening in Bronzeville, without any presence of the University."

Community views of University development ar complicated by the negative reputation the school accrued in the '50s and '60, the city's attempt to redevelop the area and reduce crime. Even in its time, urban renewal was criticized for displacing local businesses and forcing low-income tenants out of the area, prompting protesters to nickname it "Negro removal." "Some older residents of the South Side will never forgive or forget changes in the '50s under urban renewal," said Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, of Ward 4. "More recently, the University has worked hard to be a good neighbor." In fact, some see the University's more recent "good neighbor" initiatives as a form of penance for prior actions.

"There are those who want to right the thing the University did wrong with urban renewal," Goode said. "They've been here long enough to right those wrongs. I have to respect them for that." "We weren't always the world's best neighbor," Webber said speaking of the University's past, and added the U of C has "made a lot of progress."

The University's new "good neighbor" initiatives have included the creation of three charter schools, the investment of $1 million in a local nonprofit organization aiming to preserve affordable housing, and the expansion of the University Police Department beyond campus boundaries from East 39th to east 64th streets.

The University also "[provides] subsidies to faculty and staff who buy housing in areas beyond the traditional limits of the University's neighborhood," according to Danielle Allen, dean of the Humanities, in her book Talking to Strangers.

Top

Grove Parc residents wary of University intrusion

Chicago Maroon, April 17, 2007. By Sara Jerome.

For FAith McGhee, the future is uncertain. The middle-aged security guard has lived in her three-bedroom Grove Parc Plaza apartment for over 19 years, but after two failed Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) inspections, her apartment complex will soon see drastic change. As final plans await HUD approval, Grove Parc's subsidized tenants aren't sure if the complex will change ownership, be redeveloped, or even face demolition, forcing them to find new homes.

For the last two decades, McGhee has maintained her apartment despite what some might see as managerial neglect. Adorning the walls with flowers and curtains, the single mother transformed the boxy living space into a pleasant spot for her three children to grow up in. Despite the difficulty of procuring a work order for problems like loose kitchen tiles or the smell she said sometimes emanates from the floor, McGhee's own routine repairs have kept her home in good shape. "I sweep my porch, I scrub, I put a floor down on my kitchen. When [management] didn't paint, I painted," she said.

McGhee stuck it out in Grove Parc through the years when Woodlawn wasn't as wealthy or safe as it is today. For a while, the complex was associated with gangs and criminal activity, said Ed Hinsberger, Chicago Director of HUD. Yet the thought of leaving now is devastating for McGhee. She breaks down in tears as she asks a question troubling many of Grove Parc's subsidized tenants: "Why do we have to leave now that the neighborhood is finally getting nice?" And McGhee, along with many of her neighbors, already has an answer in mind: because of the University of Chicago.

Since Summer 2004, the Student-Tenant Organizing Project (STOP) has galvanized tenants to take on the University as the force behind their current circumstances. STOP maintains that racist University policies are to blame for the potential displacement of Grove Parc's largely low-income black tenant population. With 325 Grove Parc residents officially backing STOP and 50 to 60 percent of residents endorsing it--according to STOP community organizer Alex Goldenberg (A.B. '06)--a sizable contingent of tenants see the University as the source of their problems.

Yet it's unclear whether they have reached this view because the University actually intends to pursue Grove Parc, or because organizers are exploiting the negative reputation the University garnered in the '50s and '60s, when it practiced what administrators now call racist and insular policies, to pit tenants against the University.

"There's a belief among some community organizations ...that argues that you should polarize issues. I don't believe that polarizing issues is very helpful," said Hank Webber, vice president of Community Affairs for the University. "I think that this is a hard problem... As for the claim that the University is some kind of bogeyman--the University is an enormous asset to the South Side of Chicago."

STOP, composed of students and local organizers, maintains that the University has veiled intentions to control the outcome of Grove Parc Plaza and that it has been eying that property for years. In its literature on the Grove Parc situation, STOP points out that Grove Parc is situated in what might be a desirable location for the school. The 504-unit complex sits on Cottage Grove Avenue from 60th to 63rd Streets. It falls between campus and the Green Line, "the only subway line within walking distance of the campus," STOP says.

STOP argues that the University has the power to ameliorate the situation by promising to support current tenants. The University is a major force in the Woodlawn area and has two members--Webber and Rudy Nimocks, executive director of the U of C Police Department--on the board of Grove Parc's ownership, the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corporation (WPIC). Valerie Jarrett, a University trustee, is managing director and executive vice president of Habitat Company, which manages Grove Parc.

"If the University takes a stance publicly, it would happen," said Goldenberg, on the potential for resolving the situation with minimal hardship for tenants. "The University just has to issue a press release and speak out at a meeting."

Administrators say the University is only minimally involved with Grove Parc. "[Influencing the situation is] not the University's proper role," Webber said. "The University wants to contribute tot he quality of woodlawn. We do that in a variety of ways. We are represented on a set of community [boards such as WPIC]. It's not our proper role to be making the final land use decisions."

According to Nimocks, the University is only involved in Grove Parc in positive ways and is limited in influence. "The University is doing everything they possibly can," Nimocks said. "We've been working a long time on this in the most equitable way possible."

STOP substantiates its accusations against the University with a leaked 2004 PowerPoint presentation delivered to the Board of Trustees entitled "The University of Chicago: Strategy for Property Acquisition," in which a private consultant group indicates that controlling Grove Parc would "strengthen connections to mass transit" and "[provide opportunities] for additional commercial amenities." The extent to which the University considered this prospect is unclear, and administrators maintain that the documents do not reflect its current strategies.

McGhee hesitated moment when asked if the University is responsible for her situation. "There was always a rumor in the air," she said. After prompting from Goldenberg, however, she added that before she met the STOP organizers, she "was in denial" about the University's negative role. When she read a STOP flyer and decided to attend a STOP meeting in Washington Park two years ago, "I started finding out a lot of things I didn't know," she said. She agrees with STOP's view that the University is pursing an aggressive course in part out of racism. "I think if it were low-income white people, things would be different," Goldenberg said.

As a result, tenants are focusing on the University in their struggle. In their most recent effort, a group of tenants and STOP members attended a March event at which Webber was speaking and, according to Goldenberg, "grilled him" on the University's involvement with Grove Parc. In turn, Webber agreed to pass along their complaints to the board of ownership, a promise that he fulfilled. Goldenberg said Webber did not do enough, noting that Webber's rhetoric pertains to his "personal" hopes that the tenants' demand abe met, but that Webber seems less altruistic when charged with speaking on the University's behalf. "I don't think it's genuine," Goldenberg said of the concern Webber has voiced.

In agreement with STOP, 20th Ward Alderman Arenda Troutman said the University has more interest in Grove Park than it is willing to admit. "For years they've always said they're not interested in Grove Parc. I don't believe that to be true. It's too close to the entryway of U of C. Of course they're interested in seeing what happens there," she said. "The University with all their influence and influential people can step up and do a better job [in helping the community]."

Nevertheless, others minimized the University's role in the Grove Parc situation. Ed Hinsberger, HUD's Chicago Director, said the University has not played a large role in negotiations with HUD. In proposals for Grove Parc's future, he said, the University "wouldn't have control over how the building is managed."

Laura Lane, the executive director of the ownership entity WPIC, also downplayed the University's influence. "I understand where some of these rumors started. In the time that I've been here, the University hasn't had a lot to do with it," she said. "They're community stakeholders, and they have a voice on our board. but in terms of negotiation and all that fun stuff, they haven't been participating as a formal entity in any other way."

Hinsberger said he could not predict when final plans for Grove Parc would be announced, adding, "It's in bad shape and something needs to happen soon."

Top

 


A panel and discussion on Woodlawn 63rd history at HP Art Center, Aug. 2008

Discussion was led by photographer and architecture critic and urbanist Dawoud Bey and ceramicist Theaster Gates. In 1938 pictures, the street was still a vibrant, dense urban core, even boasting 4,000 seat theaters, night spots, restaurants, and practical stores while rattling above was the el that connected downtown, north side, mid south, Illinois Central and the trains to everywhere.

By 1972 holes were starting to appear in the in the commercial phalanx as the still-dense neighborhood was changing in lots of ways including loss of social capital, disinvestment, growing gangs and drugs. Soon the el would start to shrink, arson for insurance and then depopulation set in. By 1987, the majority along 63rd was green patches. By the 21st century it was all gone, including all but the foot of the el. The city had formed a master plan in the 60s and the UC plan for fancy homes down Stony Island was turned into two made refuges for low and low middle income families marching down Cottage Grove and Stony as the University pledged not to go beyond 61st, but the collapse was on anyway. Still, 63rd served in 1976 as backdrop for the blaxploitation "Monkey Hustle."

People remembered restaurants they had owned, or the night life. Some suggested changing public art exhibits at the locale might help amidst the gentrification.

 

Report on Round Table Forum on Future of Woodlawn and Hyde Park, November 23, 2004 at Ida Noyes Hall on the U of C campus

By Gary Ossewaarde. Maroon coverage follows.

A lively forum was held Wednesday, Nov. 23 on Woodlawn revitalization. The forum was sponsored by UC Recognized Student Organization Giving Tree, but was also part of an ongoing follow up to the "congress" convened by U of C on South Side past and future redevelopment in April, 2004.

Speaker/answerers at the event in the Ida Noyes Cloisters were Hank Webber, UC Vice President of Community and Governmental Affairs, Dr. Leon D. Finney, for The Woodlawn Organization, Mattie Butler, Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors, and Matthew Ginsberg-Jaeckle of Student/Tenant Organizing Project. Moderator was David Hays of the University Service Center.

In extended remarks and in answers to questions from the moderator and audience, the speakers made the following suggestions and proposals:

Mattie Butler: In the immediate future Woodlawn will become increasingly diverse in incomes and housing, but what's being built currently is almost entirely high-end market: the unit prices range from $179,000 to over $500,000. A goal should be to at least no net loss in affordable housing for the 14,000 currently in Woodlawn, including the 1,400 in Section 8 accepting housing.

She also said that the University is involved and will increasingly be involved in Woodlawn. She asked that the University be a true partner, especially with the thousands of working and low-income people--"the keepers of the land" who stayed through the hard times. UC needs to help develop the skills of the people of Woodlawn and lobby for federal, state and local programs that will help communities and residents like Woodlawn. Specifics the University could help with directly and/or lobby for include public safety, affordable housing, support for the proposed affordable set-aside housing ordinance, and use the School of Public Policy as a think tank for the South Side.

Leon Finney: Woodlawn's history has always been as a moderate income community. Turnover east of Cottage Grove was followed accompanied by conversions and crowding, protest against this, and, especially from 1963-80, by disinvestment--torching for insurance--and depopulation. So it became heavily a place of vacant lots. Today, at most 1,700 units are section 8, all in buildings owned or run by WECAN and TWO/WPIC--section 8 is a rental program--and maybe should have an ownership component.

The Jackson Park Terrace complex on Stony Island, under TWO, was recently refurbished and will remain low-income section 8 because refinancing was made possible by the University's long-term extension of its lease. It is otherwise almost impossible to get financing or refinancing, let alone federal funding or subsidy, for any complex or development that is primarily low-income: one at 26th and King will probably be the last. There are no financing structures and CHA is taking all of Chicago's allotment. There is nothing on the horizon from Congress; we need a new push at the state and federal levels . TWO was able to keep the Park Shore East complex at Harper subsidized. Mixed income projects are the only possibility now, and it's necessary to get a set-aside ordinance, court those developers committed ("sharing common purpose") to including affordability, and pressure other developers--but you can't force someone who buys up property to conform.

Finney called on the University to extend its apprenticeship programs in new construction campus wide and set up a training institute for young and working age people, including a set-aside bank of University jobs. People don't want to be poor or have to keep moving around but they can't stay in a stable community if they can't get jobs. Next, Finney called on the University to step up its initiatives in Woodlawn schools, including its tutors in schools--revive SWAP. He encouraged UC students to tell of the needs here in their home communities--and take the red states back, while getting involved in Woodlawn programs. Finney also asked the university to use its strength with the financial community to open the way to building on the vacant lots, including affordable.

Matthew Ginsberg-Jaeckle, who has led a wide variety of organizing and social-services projects in many places of the world, said basically that the words of the University with regards to communities have often failed in its deeds and that members of the university must organize to hold the university accountable to more than its core corporate mission. He asked whether the University consults those in Woodlawn who are affected the most by its decisions and nods. He said the university is not accountable and this is why (according to him) little tangible has been done to connect with Woodlawn residents since the September presentation on the South Campus Plan. An example of how the University's encouragement of housing redevelopment in fact drives out low-income people: putting high-end housing next to affordable housing drives up taxes then rents until the "affordable" units either aren't affordable or get converted to high end.

Henry Webber, University of Chicago Vice President for Community and Government Affairs, not only recited a wide variety of help-programs and other involvement in Woodlawn and countered some criticisms but also responded favorably to several of the suggestions made by other panelists and members of the audience. He agreed that the University should be held accountable for how many it employed from Woodlawn and trained from Woodlawn and should encourage and enable student and faculty involvement in programs in Woodlawn. He was expressed interest in a proposed student-department fact-and-options finding "pilot" project in Woodlawn (South Shore was also proposed by an audience member). He responded favorably to the proposal for a University-wide apprenticeship and job bank program. On the housing front especially, he noted two ways for the university to be active: as an institution -especially for housing, healthcare, policing, schools, and other resources, and through amenities being added in the South Campus Plan. The university can also be active in developing and advocating for new policies at all levels. Housing is a tough nut; bringing everyone together pulling together is promising. He said the university cannot carry the burden alone but must partner, especially with the New Communities Project, which is striving to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for Woodlawn.

Karen King, leader of the New Communities Project, appealed for UC students to become involved in the dozens of on-the-ground projects going on in Woodlawn. She said the Project is committed to helping the residents, to a real strategic plan, and to a mixed-income community.

There were some strong expressions of distrust and accusations against both the University and Woodlawn organizations, esp. of Dr. Finney, most harshly by a representative of MOVE, a political organization. Finney refuted specific charges with facts and statistics. The Move representative had to be encouraged to stop disrupting the program.

Most felt the program was highly constructive, Mr. Webber offered to meet with several making suggestions, thanked the suggesters and said we can now go forward.

Top

University affirms commitment to affordable housing - Panel fails to discuss Grove Parc Plaza apartments, Webber reiterates University's pledge to not build south of 61st Street.

Chicago Maroon, November 30, 2004. by Carl Pickerill

The University Community Service Center (UCSC) panel held last Tuesday at Ida Noyes discussed the University's commitment to affordable housing in Woodlawn, but did not address the possible closing of the Grove Park Plaza apartment complex. By failing to address the Grove Pac Plaza situation, University officials sidestepped an issue which community activists have emphasized: The possibility that the University will expand south of 61st Street. If closed....some 500 families would be evicted from their low-income apartments. [See following item.]

Tuesday' UCSC event, sponsored by The Giving Tree and featuring panelists from the University and the community, discussed affordable housing in Woodlawn. Henry Webber, the director of community affairs, Reverend Leon Finney of the Apostolic Church of God [sic- Christ Apostolic] and director [emeritus] of The Woodlawn Organization (TWO), Mattie Butler, director [sic] of Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors, and Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle, recent graduate (BA '04) and a student organizer with the Student Tenant Organizing [Project] (STOP) shared their views nd concerns to about 200 attendees at Ida Noyes.

Butler spoke first, on the need for more affordable housing in Woodlawn, challenging the University to "be more involved with Woodlawn" and to "truly work as a partner with the economically-challenged members of the community."

Webber and Finney then commented upon the need for more state and federal funding for affordable housing. Ginsberg-Jaeckle go his turn about 15 minutes later. The tone of the panel, however, had already largely been set. He was the only speaker critical of University policy. "the only way to ensure that the University does what it says it is going to do is to organize for the sake of holding it accountable," said Ginsberg-Jaeckle. "the University is one thing in public, but privately its decisions are quite different."

Ginsberg-Jaeckle was largely unable to shift the focus of the forum onto the preconceived inability of the University to improve its relations with its southern neighbors. He emphasized that Woodlawn residents "can't ever really trust the University," asking if the University will" ever take the community's interests into account."

Webber detailed the University's construction plans in the coming years. Retail, parking and a dormitory will be going up on 61st Street in the coming years. By 2020 the University should see a new hotel and a performing arts center "all on plots of land that the University owns," Webber said. Webber repeated the pledge made by the University in 1964 "not to build on land south of 61st Street." He reiterated the "commitment" that the University has of supporting the community and stressed the "challenge of ensuring economic diversity in Woodlawn, as the neighborhood develops."

The tone was in stark contrast to the Angels of Def event "Bursting the Bubble: Everything you wanted to know about Woodlawn but were to afraid to ask," held on NOv. 17. [See below.] There, community members and student organizers expressed their reservations about possible University expansion south of 61st Street, and the possibility of the destruction of Grove Parc Plaza.

Ginsberg-Jaeckle asked rhetorically if "the University will go south of 61st Street, although Hank Webber said they will not." But his voice seemed to go both unaided and unanswered throughout the panel.

Reverend Leon Finney incited a strong response. He bemoaned the lack of a "housing bill to create funding for affordable housing. The days of developments for only low-income tenants are over unless something is passed on the national level."

His comments about jobs in Woodlawn drew the ire of one participant. After saying that Woodlawn's "young people need jobs to ensure that we have the ability to stay in the neighborhood," an attendee named Paul from the Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE) took Finney to task during he question-and-answer session. He accused Finney of not employing black residents at the South Park Plaza development at 26th Street and Martin Luther King Drive, a mixed-income development managed by the Woodlawn Community Development Corporation, of which Finney is chairman. The heckler then hurled racial insults at Fined and disrupted subsequent questions before being escorted out of the building.

Finney kept his cool and said that TWO employees 476 black men and women throughout the South Side. "Sixty percent of all men and women who worked on South Park Plaza were African American," he said. Finney added that the University"needs to become invigorated to seek opportunities to partner with us to complete projects on the South Side. The average African American community needs to use its resources and coalesce with the University. The University has the ability to help with investment funds to help build a community."

While Ginsberg-Jaeckle said in a phone interview that he "didn't necessarily agree with the heckler's tone, that kind of anger comes from somewhere and it needed to be expressed. He added that Finney and Webber have been deceiving the community and that people shouldn't ignore the "imbalance of power" that exists in the community. "My compliments go out to Hank and Leon," Ginsberg-Jaeckle said. "They did a good job of taking the real issue of University expansion out of the spotlight, instead making funding at the state and local level the culpable party in the issue of affordable housing."

Ginsberg said the lack of feedback from community residents in University decisions is deplorable and that the University should, "at the very least, organized more meetings to inform residents of future plans. As of yet nothing has been done." The exclusion of residents from the decision-making process's is "the base of all the problems of development in the neighborhood. There are other voices that would like to be at the table that aren't just TWO or the University."

Webber responded in a telephone interview: "The University is proposing to build on land it has owned well over 40 years. The University has no interest or plans in expanding south of 61st Street." Webber added that he looks forward to working with the community and that the results of the panel were quite positive. "The University is committed to working with a variety of groups in Woodlawn and to building a quality mixed-income community," Webber said...

Top

 

Coverage of a forum November 17, 2004:
Expansion draws ire of Woodlawn residents: Speakers from Angels of Def event rail on University...Event participants, heavy on criticism, offer few tangible answers

[Note: from the report, complaints were mostly allegations that the Grove Parc Plaza apartments, a private complex under WPIC, may be closed at the disadvantage of low-income residents and that the University is in collusion with WPIC on such, and that the University is a controlling force in Woodlawn working toward gentrification and displacement-- a charge University officers vigorously countered. Criticism was also directed at TWO , WPIC, and Alderman Arenda Troutman (20th). This article is important in identifying players, perceptions, and dynamics. However, neither any particular view in the article or the tone of the reporter necessarily reflect those of this website or HPKCC. GMO]

The Chicago Maroon, November 19, 2004. by Carl Pickerill.

A few of Woodlawn and Grove Parc's tire, poor, and huddled masses gathered Wednesday night in Cob Coffee Shop at an RSO-sponsored event, putting a face on the community that will be largely driven by the University's expansion south of the Midway.

"Bursting the Bubble: Everything you wanted to know about Woodlawn but were afraid to ask," featured residents from the community, student organizers from Angels of Def, and questions from a curious audience of about 75 students.

Irate event participants directed their criticism not only at "University imperialism," as one Woodlawn resident called it, but also at Woodlawn community organizations. Drawing criticism were The Woodlawn Organization (TWO), headed by the Reverend Dr. Leon Finney, the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corporation (WPIC), founded by Bishop Arthur Brazier in 1987, and 20th Ward Alderman Arenda Troutman.

Of major concern was the potential closing of the Grove Parc Plaza apartments on Cottage Grove north of 63rd Street. Students and neighborhood tenant organizers have been behind a push to inform residents that they may soon be out on the streets.

Sharon Payne, a member of the Student/Tenant Organizing Project, said that Grove Parc residents believe they will receive vouchers for new housing if they are removed from the apartment complex. Grove Parc is however, not public housing. This means that the city shoulders no responsibility for providing new housing for displaced residents.

"They're either going to tear it down or turn it into town houses," Lonnie Richardson, Grove Parc resident and tenant organizer, said. Richardson said community leaders are hoping that a shopping center or high-priced homes will replace the low-income residences.

University Director of Community Affairs Henry Webber said in a telephone interview that the University is not going to purchase or develop land south of 61st Street."We are building on vacant University land," Webber said."The claim (that Grove Parc is being targeted for demolition) really flies in the face of facts."

Other residents expressed frustration that they are not being considered in the decision-making process. "(TWO) says that they represent the community's interests but they represent the community's interests but they don't" said Janice Fuller, a Woodlawn tenant organizer. "For one thing their meetings are closed to the public.." Fuller said that she and twenty other residents attempted to attend a TWO meeting a few months ago. TWO board members allegedly threatened to call the police to have Fuller and her companions removed.

TWO, once a staunch opponent of University expansion in the 60s and 70s, now manages 4,150 units of housing in Woodlawn. It has been a major developer in the neighborhood.

TWO said 10-15 years ago that the University was targeting the Grove Parc Plaza apartment on Cottage Grove north of 63rd Street for conversion into student dormitories, according to Richardson."Back then, we got buses together, organized a protest, and made it clear that we wanted to stay in those apartments," Richardson said.

He added that Grove Parc used to be populated by the working class. That has changed in past years. "Once WPIC took over, the apartments became subsidized," Richardson said. "They were paying working poor to move out." Residents suspect that the deterioration, crime, and poverty within the apartment complex serve as a pretext for its future demolition. Some residents believe that the University gives its tacit approval to WPIC's negligence of maintenance in hopes that there will soon be reason to close the complex.

Webber refuted those facts, and added that WPIC has spent several million dollars on refurbishing Grove Parc apartments, and that the University has helped with the crime issue by expanding University Police coverage to 64th Street and by posting individual police details within Grove Parc Plaza.

"There are challenges to providing high quality housing for people on very limited incomes," Webber noted. He said that WPIC as an organization is committed to keeping rents affordable, and encouraged tenants to raise any concerns they may have wit the executive director or staff of WPIC.

"The best way to get rid of residents in those places is to stop doing work on the decrepit buildings," [said] Sharon Payne, a member of STOP."There is a University board member who sits on the board of WPIC. They say there is no collusion, but there is a lot of it."

Webber, one of two University employees who sits on the board of WPIC, said he has made no secret of his board membership. Director of University Police Rudolph Nimocks chairs WPIC. "This fact is listed in my official bio," Webber said. "There is no hiding of any of this."

Event participants lacked definite answers to the question of the future of Grove Parc and Woodlawn. "I know someone who works for WPIC. She doesn't sit on th board, but knows about the plans for future development (in Grove Parc)," Fuller said. "And what she told me was, 'it's in the plans, it's coming down.'"

Residents and students claim to know why. Community organizer and University graduate Matthew Ginsberg-Jaeckle cautioned against taking the denials by University administration of University involvement in Grove Parc for granted. "(Henry) Webber was asked by a grove Parc resident at a recent meeting about the future of Grove Parc," Ginsberg-Jaeckle said. "Webber responded that he didn't know anything about that and that 'you'll have to ask WPIC.'" Ginsberg-Jaeckle said that webber sits on the board of WPIC, implying he would know their plans for development.

"I don't believe that the characterization of that exact quote is quite correct," Webber said. "I think I said that the question is best answered by the chairman of WPIC (Nimocks) who was in the room at the time of the meeting."

The University, for its part, distributed a memo to Woodlawn residents last month, detailing short-term projects for University construction north of 61st Street. Although the University has expressed commitment to not expanding past 61st Street, the only mention of "longer-term projects" was that they would begin by 2020. Despite its lack of land ownership south of 61st Street, the University has helped fund construction in Woodlawn.

Student/Tenant organizers are gearing up for next Tuesday's round table discussion featuring webber, Finney, Ginsberg-Jaeckle, and Mattie Butler, head of the Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors. The event will be held in the Ida Noyes Cloister Club at [7 pm or 7:15 pm?]. Food from Siam will be provided.

_______________

Ed. Note. In a follow up letter, Michael Goldenberg, 3rd-year in the College, with Angels of Def, criticized this coverage on the following grounds:

Top

Reactions to an essay accusing the University and its community and indirectly Hyde Park of practicing colonialism re surrounding neighborhoods especially Woodlawn. November 30, 2004.

Dan Weitzenfeld, a 4th-year in the College, wrote one of several letters in response to a November 22 op-ed piece by Ashley White-Stern entitled"University benevolence does not compensate for lasting inequality."

Weitzenfeld's points were:

Emily Mason, a 4th-year in the College, said:

Top

A University analysis and perspective, and Woodlawn stories. Drawn from the U of C Magazine, February 2006

Tha article was written by Lydialyle Gibson.

Due South: After decades of mistrust and misunderstanding, the University is getting reacquainted with Woodlawn.

It's possible to argue there's no such thing as Woodlawn. Geographically, the neighborhood is bounded by Jackson Park, King Drive, 60th Street, and 67th Street, but its true demarcations--its identity and unifying characteristics--are murkier. Woodlawn lacks the natural cohesion of other city neighborhoods: there are o softball leagues (or fields), no arts districts, few storefronts, and fewer community centers. Residents do not necessarily feel connected to each other or to the jostling neighborhood groups that claim to represent them. The vacant lots dotting the landscape both embody and contribute to Woodlawn's social fragmentation; the physical gaps between neighbors widen their isolation. Community gardening on empty property has become one of the area's few civic activities.

Until this decade, when development began picking up and new residents began moving in, Woodlawn's history was a marathon of decline. Between 1960 and 2000, its population fell from 81,279 to 27,086 as integration provoked furious white flight (in 1930 Woodlawn was 86 percent white; by 1960, 10.4; in 2000, 3 percent) and worsening poverty chased away middle-class blacks.

In the 1960s and '70s neighborhood deterioration* sparked "insurance fires" that claimed more than 100 buildings. Gangs commanded the streets. Taverns overtook 63rd Street's once-bustling commercial corridor, until finally most business died. Across t he Midway's grassy moat, meanwhile, the University raised its drawbridge. [* and inability of landlords to support costs during inflation and profits by chopping up units and charging steep rents]

After early-1960s protests foiled their urban-renewal hopes, some U of C officials ignored the neighborhood. Others sought engagement. In 1968 high-school basketball coach Larry Hawkins became inaugural director of the University's Office of Special Programs--a post he still holds-organizing Upward Bound curricula for youngsters in Woodlawn and elsewhere. By the 1970s Chicago's education dean began looking for ways to help local public-school principals. A few students tutor Woodlawn grade-schoolers, while individual professors offered after-school and summertime lessons in math and science.

Today many of those efforts have become institutional. Students and faculty volunteer through the Center for Urban School Improvement and Neighborhood Schools Project as tutors, mentors, and instructional coaches. They work with Woodlawn social-service agencies, the University Community Service Center, or activist groups like the Student/Tenant Organizing Project (STOP). The Office of Community Affairs seeks to preserve and create affordable housing, while the Civic Knowledge Project, an organization founded by Humanities dean Danielle Allen, aims for an unusual exchange: University book-learning for neighborhood memory and experience. Civic Knowledge Project staffers arrange programs, tutoring, and library access for local residents, who help catalog and archive their neighborhoods' cultural, economic and political histories. Even if Woodlawn residents haven's decided to trust the University, they're certainly seeing a lot moe of it.

Beat 313 meeting. ..Five officers listen as locals describe the drug deals [and more}...Three rows from the front, University Police Sergeant Jo/Cathy Roberts takes notes. [She offers comfort.] Roberts and other UCPD officers have been attending Woodlawn beat meeting for four years , ever since campus police agreed--at the request of 20th Ward Alderman Arenda Troutman and 300 locals assembled at a June 2001 community meeting--to extend its patrols south to 64th Street. "We're mending the broken bridges," says Roberts, who, as a community outreach officer, often shows up at schools, libraries, and condo-board meetings. "In the past, people, especially in Woodlawn, really distrusted th U of C. That's not as true anymore. Now the message we're sending is we're willing to say the safety of Woodlawn residents is is as important as the safety of people in Hyde Park and the University.

Rudolph Nimocks, University Police executive director, agrees that the message is getting through. A Woodlawn resident for 53 years, he says the past decade has a drop in crime. "And people know that when they call 911, we come out too. Sometimes we get there before the city cops do. The University and University Police Department are part of, rather than apart from neighboring communities."

Yet, a chill sometimes lingers south of the Midway. Wrapping up Beat 312' meeting, police warn about a recent spike in attacks on lone pedestrians near 60th Street and Washington Park. ...One man wryly observes that a similar crime wave on campus and in Hyde Park prompted televised warnings on local news segments. "What does it take," he asks, "to get a warning on TV?" The reply comes quickly: "It' all about who carries the juice," says a 3rd District officer. A room full of heads nod solemnly, knowingly. One man chortles. "Yeah, who carries the juice."

Surviving

The night Ivy Bass returned home to the news that gang members were trying to recruit her teenage son, she hit the streets spoiling for a fight. "I had just come home from work," she says, "so I put on my house shoes and got out my baseball bat and I said, "'Who wants you to join a gang? Who said that to you?' And I walked up and down Ellis and Greenwood looking for them." Bass never found the culprits, but she and her husband did manage to raise for boys in the 1960s and '70s who were "good kids in Woodlawn. Never in any trouble that I knew about." Beginning in the late 1950s the family spent three decades in an apartment at 61st Street and Woodlawn Avenue, where her kids grew up playing ice hockey on the Midway. Four years ago Bass moved to a low-income co housing development on Kimbark Avenue an 62nd Street. A block north, a handsome graystone sits boarded up, while a developer's sign across the street advertises 33 soon-to-be-built condominiums with gas fireplaces, granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, and asking prices starting at $215,000. "I call this the new Woodlawn," Bass says. "The old people are gone, new people are coming in." Her husband Henry died in 1997. The following year she took over the newsstand he'd operated at 63rd and Ellis Avenue for three decades, ever since he saw the stand's previous owner robbed at gunpoint and killed. "He stayed with him until the ambulance came, but the man died." Now waking up at 4 a.m. everyday, Bass sells the Tribune, Sun-Times, and Defender to University-bound commuters and Woodlawn locals. Most of the newer residents, she says, get their news from the Internet. "My husband sold everything: candy newspapers, magazines. I just sell the papers."

She's heard the "rumors and conspiracy talk" about University involvement in Woodlawn's changing demographics--and she too has noticed white residents moving in while blacks are moving out--but Bass says she "can't relate to that. I just say time was coming and a change had to take place." What Bass sees is neighborhood evolution. "It's a poor wind that don't blow."

Sonya Malunda, the University's assistant vice president and director of community affairs, is still settling into her new office. After eight years of working from the quads, she packed up her desk last fall and headed to the community-affairs office's first field outpost, in the Edelstone Building at 6030 S. Ellis Avenue. Woodlawn has become her single focus, and the South Campus Plan her most visible assignment. Over the next 15 years, the University will add a dormitory, a parking garage, offices and retail space to the area roughly between 60th and 61st streets and cottage Grove and Stony Island avenues. "It will create an attractive, welcoming campus edge facing the community," says Vice President for Community and Government Affairs Henry Webber. "Something like what we've done successfully along 55th Street." Still, south-campus redevelopment is a sensitive topic; at public meetings in 2004, Woodlawn residents expressed unease about University interests and dissatisfaction with the level and frequency of its communications. Malunda's presence, in fact, is part of a campaign to answer those worries. The revelation last October that consultants had urged University trustees to consider expanding the campus south of 61st Street--which would violate a 42-year agreement with one of Woodlawn's most influential community groups--sparked a minor uproar and prompted swift assurances from webber's office. "Keeping that agreement is absolutely significant" to building trust with Woodlawn residents, says Malunda. "This is a work in progress. The University has had a very long, complicated, controversial history with its neighbors to the south, and it will take many years to improve that connection. Are we getting better? Yes. have I worked my way out of a job? No. The main thing we need to do is be in the community. And the trick is to be at the table, but at the same time not be at the table with all the answers."

Proof, she says, lies in the $20 million plan to renovate the Midway. During neighborhood skull sessions in 1999, locals were eager to open a connection to the University and soften the Midway's uninviting immensity. "The community wanted a bridge," Malunda says. "They wanted activities on the Midway to reach across to Woodlawn," An ice rink opened in February 2001, and the plan also envisions a children's garden and a playground. Last September city and University officials unveiled a one-acres memorial garden just west of the Midway honoring long-time Chicago professor and Woodlawn resident Allison Davis, PhD'42.

Beyond campus planning, the work of Malunda, Webber and his staff touches other spheres of neighborhood life: jobs, housing, schools, redevelopment. The Neighborhood Schools Project hires U of C students to work in elementary an high-school classrooms. Business-diversity and workforce-development initiatives help steer opportunities to locals. This month Webber announced a $1 million investment in the Community Investment Corporation, a nonprofit lending group whose programs rescue and rehab affordable housing. "There's a broad consensus that Woodlawn needs to be a community of choice, and a community of choice for people of different economic backgrounds.," Webber says. "We're particularly concerned about the preservation of affordable housing, now that the market is working." He believes he's seen the end of Woodlawn's deterioration. "The decades between 1950 and 1990," he says, "were a period of precipitous decline in Chicago; it was the largest 40-year decline of any American city. But particularly in East Woodlawn, there is revitalization, and that's a pattern we expect to continue."

Five years ago, when Dorothy Pytel was pregnant with her oldest son and her husband Peter was beginning a pathology residency at the Hospital, the couple moved into a spacious, wide-windowed apartment at 61st street and Woodlawn Avenue. Out their northward living-room window sprawls the Brickyard Garden, a collection of community vegetable plots and flowerbeds organized in 1975, when an apartment building burned to the ground and neighbors got times of seeing abandoned cars on the empty lot. It's one of a half-dozen community gardens to take root on vacant properties within a few blocks of each other. "They put a fence around it and kind of repossesses the land," says Pytel, who has become the Brickyard Garden's principal overseer, securing several grants and launching a summer program for children. "There's so little going on here after school gets out that the kids don't have anything to do. They end up just hanging out on the street."

last spring a busload of Hospitals volunteers helped Brickyard gardeners build a pergola an some raised beds. Both University transplants and longtime Woodlawn residents tend the 20 or so plats, and a few original gardeners have bequeathed their spaces to children and grandchildren. .... At both the Brickyard Garden and the community meetings Pytel attends, people often want to know, she says, "what's up the University's sleeve." She's starting to notice a change in the U of C's projected attitude toward Woodlawn For one thing, an employer-assisted housing program launched in 2003 offers University staff $7,5000 grants to help them buy home in outlying neighborhoods like Woodlawn. During her house search five years ago, Pytel says, "we didn't exactly feel encouraged; people felt unsafe here."

[Sara Spurlark recalls coming to the area when it was still all white, and of Urban Renewal in which the University made Hyde Park-Kenwood more desirable but ignored t he surrounding communities.] "That kind of thing generates hard feelings."

And long memories. Over the years, Spurlark sometimes endured residents' resentment. After 22 years as a public-school principal, in 1989 she helped launch the U of C's Center for Urban School Improvement ... Her first assignment took her to Fiske Elementary at 61st and Ingleside Avenue, where she faced resident convinced--wrongly Spurlark says--that University scholars had profited from research at the school and then declined to share the spoils. "When are we going to get our money?" she remembers one man asking at a meeting she'd convened to explain "what we thought we brought to the table and emphasize that we wanted to be the school's partner." Since those early tensions, "there's been enough consciousness raised," she says. "There have been enough frank discussions where people say, 'What you did was not bad; how you did it was not good.' If things are done in ways that make people feel respected, you can do almost anything."

...in 2006 [a charter high is opening and USI has formed relationships with all seven public elementary schools in the neighborhood. Classroom teachers, tutors, and literacy coordinators train on campus, while students and faculty at the Scholl of Social Service Administration help address "nonacademic barriers to learning" such as poverty, hunger, and stressful home lives, says USI Executive director Timothy Knowles. Principals and teachers can apply for extra guidance, and USI sponsors monthly workshops and two-week intensive labs. Researchers from the center also generate classroom tools like early-grade literacy assignments and digital systems to track student progress. "This is not esoteric social-science research," Knowles says. "We're creating tools that derive from the problems of classroom practice." The way Knowles sees it, producing useful implements is essential, especially given the University's uncomfortable history with Woodlawn. "The only way to transcend the idea of 'here comes the ivory tower to tell us what to do' is to deliver results, whether you're training teachers or teaching kids."

WECAN

One night in 1980, and apartment building two doors down from Mattie Butler's 65th Street home caught fire. Coming 15 years after arsonists began torching well-insured Woodlawn properties, the fire was part of a long, eviscerating neighborhood calamity, but this time 13 children died--"kids I knew when they were in the womb," Butler says. ....She'd been living in Woodlawn since 1964, when her brother Jerry "The Iceman" Butler, a newly prosperous R&B singer (later a Cook County Commissioner), bought a three-flat near Stony Island Avenue and moved his family out of Cabrini Green. "He didn't know white flight was going on," Butler says. "As soon as we got here, the stuff hit the fan, and then it was worse than Cabrini."

Within months of the 1890 fire, Butler founded Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors (WECAN), and organization dedicated to finding jobs, improving education, and preserving affordable housing for residents. Over the years, WECAN's causes have pitted Butler against city officials, state legislators, other Woodlawn leaders, and U of C administrators. "The student body has always had a good relationship with this organization," she insists, adding "Our relationship with the University's Office of Community Affairs has become more meaningful this year than ever before. They're listening now; there's a dialogue. You feel there's hope for working together."

Not that Butler has retired her bullhorn. Woodlawn's problems persist, and the University, she says, has a responsibility to help fix them. Foremost on her mind are rising rents--without low-income tax breaks, "this place will be gentrified out of its skull"-- and failing schools. University police patrols in Woodlawn also make Butler a little uneasy, especially given periodic Chicago Maroon reports of campus officers allegedly harassing black students. "Any time you've got more police protection, that's a good thing," she says. "However, when you become a target..."

Calling the University a "giant on the move," she urges changes that Webber and Knowles argue are under way: affordable-housing development, assistance for existing public schools, jobs for Woodlawn residents, and a more welcoming demeanor. "The University needs to expand its definition of community," she says. Right now it's limited, and the boundaries are the property the University owns and operates. If they expand to all the areas they're affecting, treat those areas with honor and respect, people would trust them more. That trust would come back."

The Bad Old Days are gone. That much Leon Finney Jr., chair and CEO of The Woodlawn Organization (TWO) and founding pastor at Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church, can say for sure.....Finney recalls Woodlawn's dark age in the 1960s: slumlords, white flight, failing businesses, and surging street crime.

The University, Finney says, didn't help matters. Landlocked and acquisitive--and looking to secure its southern boundary in a deteriorating South Side--it wanted to reshape Woodlawn into an urban-renewal landscape. Empty storefronts and run-down apartment houses were to make room for a dormitory, parking lots, an applied-research park. That's when TWO (in those nascent days it was called the Temporary Woodlawn Organization) went to war--and one. The wrecking ball stopped swinging, and in 1964 TWO leaders exacted a written promise from University administrators: the campus would not extend south of 61st street."There was a real insensitivity to the issues of land and land use back then," Finney says."That was what catalyzed the formation of TWO in the first place, what provoked open warfare. Forty-five years later, the University is still living that down."

Cofounded by Bishop Arthur Brazier, whose Apostolic Church of God on 63rd street claims an active membership of more than 18,000, TWO began as a militant protest organization. Power and the passing years have mellowed its rhetoric and widened its calling. Today the group functions as a social-service agency, child-care provider, real-estate developer, property manager, and housing advocate. Since the early 1970s the organization has worked with University administrators (who emphasize their "junior partner" status) on projects such as Jackson Park Terrace, a low-0income high-rise at 60th street and Stony Island Avenue constructed and later renovated by the Community Development Corporation (TWO's real-estate arm) with financial help and a long-term lease from the University. In 1987 collaboration helped spawn the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corporation (WPIC), whose board includes higher-ups from both groups: Finney, Brazier, Webber, and Nimocks. A few years ago, a WPIC project to enliven eight empty blocks of 63rd Street with 233 homes (one-fifth affordable housing) began. Last May WPIC, TWO, and the University--with input from local residents and funding from the MacArthur Foundation --published a "quality-of-life" plan calling for, among other things, a business district along Cottage Grove Avenue, a playground in west Woodlawn, an expanded employment center, and a neighborhood arts council.

Some Woodlawn activists--not least Butler--claim that TWO has matured beyond the interests of ordinary residents, trading scrappy vigor for settled power. Brazier has heard this complaint before. "People say we've sold out--sold out to what?" he says. "What we die was not make permanent enemies with a powerful institution that can do a lot to help Woodlawn. ... Why struggle with a university willing and prepared to make that cordial relationship?" Besides, Finney says, TWO and University officials don't always agree. Finney's not sold on the charter schools, which siphon vital resources--money and influence--he'd like to see spent on existing schools and affordable housing. "Woodlawn schools are in desperate shape."

Help, housing and jobs

Gerald Weiss, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, worries more than he use to about Woodlawn's poor, but he's certain the University isn't the enemy. " I used to be considered a radical," he says. "Now I'm a realist." from First Presbyterian's pulpit at 64th and Kimbark Avenue, Weiss has monitored 19 years of Woodlawn history. Two decades before he became the church's pastor, however, he was an occasional student at the Divinity School and a disciple of community organizer Saul Alinsky, PhB'30. When TWO was founded in 1961, Weiss was there. "Saul Alinsky thought it was something we should see," he says. These days the church's rambling corridors and classrooms house 90 children in day care, preschool, and after-school programs. Each week worshippers prepare 150 food baskets and 200 hot meals for the hungry. "People are in need," Weiss says, and he has a very wary eye on Woodlawn's quickening home sales and condo conversions. Vacant lots are disappearing, a welcome auspice, "but once again, poorer residents are being crowded out. I see no problem with development--God bless them, come, come--but how do you get the government to do what it should do: look after the poor?" He believes it's up to city officials to protect those suddenly faced with prohibitive rents and unpayable property taxes, but the U of C ought to help. "It can leverage power to hold the government accountable," Weiss says. "The science of sociology was developed right here at the University, for goodness sakes."

Even more crucial and concrete than clout, however, are jobs. "No sense talking about housing if there aren't any jobs," he says. The U of C provides many for Woodlawn residents--at its Hospitals, kitchens, janitor's closets, and cashier windows--and the campus's southward expansion promises more. "The thing that is going to save Woodlawn," Weiss says, "is jobs."

MAGIC

As a Woodlawn native and activist and a Chicago alum, Joe Strickland, AM'02, straddles two worlds. His brother still lives in the Drexel Avenue house his grandmother bought in the late 1950s, but little else remains of the neighborhood he remembers. "When I grew up in Woodlawn, there were rec centers, a YMCA, theaters , doctors' offices, dentists' offices, grocery stores--everything a community needed," he says. "By the time I reached high school, all that was changing. Businesses were leaving." Strickland spent the 1990s working in Boston, and when he returned in 2000, "pretty much all the buildings were gone, and those that weren't gone were boarded up." Figuring he could help, he enrolled in the Social Service Administration and with seven classmates launched Metropolitan Area Group for Igniting Civilization (MAGIC). The organization made a mission out of Woodlawn's faltering and frustrated kids. Today MAGIC runs a handful of programs teaching students--and often their parents--entrepreneurship, Web design, and community organizing. During summer-long paid apprenticeships, kids produce artwork that's publicly displayed. Some teenagers conceive and manage their own programs; the group's oldest project, called United Sisters of Civilization, asks high-school girls to recruit adult lecturers and organize a ten-week schedule of seminars covering topics like financial literacy, math and science, critical thinking, nutritional health, etiquette, cultural awareness, and violence prevention. "It was as if young people were an afterthought in Woodlawn," Strickland says. "There was so much focus on issues like housing that even education didn't seem like a priority . We saw gaps that needed to be filled."

University Hospitals gave MAGIC one of its first grants, and Stickland receives support---financial and otherwise--from the Office of Community Affairs. "They've been very helpful, but more importantly, they've been helpful in a way that doesn't co-opt what we do," he says. "A lot of times we might disagree with the University, but we haven't been penalized for being outspoken." For instance, Strickland isn't so sure about some affordable-housing projects supported by the Office of Community Affairs. "First, 'affordable housing' is relative," he says. "I know University graduates who can't afford it. And these developments should include space for young people. It's not attainable housing if large families can't live together. That's how poor people survive, by combining three or four paychecks to pay one rent." He'd also like to see an admissions quota for Woodlawn residents. "I don't want to lower standards. But I'm sure we could find people to meet the qualifications." Chicago would benefit from the arrangement too, he says, by gaining a more organic connection to the neighborhood. "If Tamara goes to the University of Chicago, then everyone on her block has a tie to the University."

He credits President Don Randel with fostering much of the University's recent openness. "Actually, it's kind of scary he's leaving," he says, echoing a sentiment shared by other local activists. More and more Strickland sees Chicago officials reaching across the Midway, and Woodlawn residents, he says, ought to reach back. "In the past, people saw the University as a colonial power, but those days are gone. Don Randel made sure of that. Now if the University doesn't seem to care, it's because it doesn't know. They're listening: talk to them. Communicate."

When he wa a kid, Wallace Goode Jr. and his friends played ball in the middle of the block. It kept them safe, he says, from lurking gang members. Somebody suspicious would round one corner and Goode and his buddies would bolt toward the other. "We'd be running through gangways, people's basement, people's garages, everywhere." Goode's home--and nearly his whole universe--was on Minerva Avenue and 66th Street, one of the few neutral blocks in 1960s Woodlawn. Steps away stood "100 percent gang territory," he says. "Your world was very small in these days. Because of the gangs, you mostly stayed on your block." Yet Woodlawn maintained thriving businesses for years--Goode got his first job at a shoe store on 63rd street--and a lively nightlife. "It was a vibrant African American community where you could find doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and people on welfare all living on the same block." After he left for Elmhurst College in 1970, an exodus of black middle-class residents decimated and impoverished the neighborhood.

Last August Goode returned. As t he new director of the University Community Service Center, associate dean of students, and a Woodlawn homeowner, he marvels at the zeal with which University officials now try to engage longtime black residents. He remembers "looking across the Midway at 15 years old and feeling like the University was so far away." He'd acquired a taste for scholarly pursuits thanks to U of C students who tutored him and his fifth-grade classmates, and by the time he was in high school Goode had begun sneaking on campus and try to blend in. University police were never fooled, and he remembers one night in particular when an officer "very clearly said, 'You don't belong here.'"

The gulf between campus and neighborhood is narrowing, Goode says. Looking beyond community affairs, school improvement, and campus policing, he counts among the University's outreach efforts the Oriental Institute's winter exhibit of Nubian photography, Court Theatre's symposium on August Wilson's Fences, and a Smart Museum campaign to expand neighborhood family membership. Goode's office, which annually helps 2,500 students volunteer in the surrounding communities, is complying an Orientation Week video to offer incoming students a glimpse of neighborhoods like Woodlawn. "Not enough to them know Woodlawn is there or what it is," he says. "But the question I keep asking is, 'Why?' Why such hyped-up attention now?" His theories range from the "altruistic to the pragmatic," but he's not sure it matters to Woodlawn residents. "They're saying, 'It's about time.'"

Standing at his office window on the Administration Building's fifth floor and looking out across the quads, with their cloisters and spires and filigreed arches, University President Don Randel can't help but think of the Middle Ages. "Universities were first founded when the streets were dangerous places," he says. "Gothic architecture was founded under these circumstances too, and by its nature it looks inward...the idea of retreat, of keeping apart from the outside world, is in the DNA of a university going back hundreds of years." But never has it been more imperative for the U of C to overcome its isolationist heritage, and Randel hopes the outreach will continue after his departure. Woodlawn, he says, presents "the mother of all interdisciplinary problems": a fragmented population in need of housing, schools, parks, safe streets, jobs, money, and grocery stores. "And we have to get it right this time. Otherwise it'll be 50 years before we get another chance."

Top

 

Piccolo Mondo vets to [restore,] run Woodlawn ballroom

Several Hyde Park Historical Society members, as well as the reporter of the article below, took advantage of an invitation to tour the Grand Ballroom at 63rd and Cottage Grove as restoration nears completion.

Hyde Park Herald, January 19, 2005. By Mike Stevens

Two local restaurateurs have finally found a space to start cooking again after almost two years of looking for a new Hyde Park location. The catch? It is four blocks south of the Midway in Woodlawn.

"I wanted to stay in Hyde Park because I am a Hyde Parker," said Piccolo Mondo's former manager Norberto Zas. "[But] when I saw this space, I felt the way I did when I saw my wife for the first time."

"The space" is the historic Grand Ballroom, 6349 S. Cottage Grove Ave., which has been shuttered for almost a decade. Depending upon renovations and permits, Zas and fellow Piccolo Mondo-veteran Dominic Gervasio could begin to book, cater and manage the 13,000-square-foot, second-four banquet space as early as April.

Three years after buying the property for $280,000, current owner Andy Schcolnik and a crew of 45 workers raced last week to finish enough of the $1 million plus renovation to be able to host the annual fund-raiser for his children's school, the Near North Montessori School. "This is the first time t[the fund-raiser] is coming south," Schcolnik said. "It's a big deal for North Siders to come down here."

The ballroom's 60-foot-long, art-deco bar and unhung chandeliers collected dust last Thursday as work crews hung drywall on the 20-foot-tall ceilings and artisans remolded water-damaged decorative plaster in the gilt stairwell entrance. In the afternoon, a sea container from Argentina was scheduled to arrive filled custom-made ceramic friezes of angelic-cherubs meant to replace missing parts of the building's exterior. The 26,000-square-foot building includes six ground-floor retail spots, most of which, Schcolnik said, already have potential leasors.

Lingering city concerns over a lack of parking look to be fading, Schcolnik said, after a meeting with Ald. Arenda Troutman (20th). Schcolnik hopes to buy city property nearby with Troutman's assistance. "I need parking like I need air and water," Schcolnik said.

When the building was finished in 1923, the intersection at 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue boasted one of the city's largest commercial and entertainment districts outside of the Loop. The Grand Ballroom, then known as the Cinderella Chop Suey Restaurant and Dance Hall, sat within sight of t he Tivoli Theater, a 3,400 seat motion picture palace, and the Trianon Ballroom.

"At one time that was the swinging place," Hyde Park Historical Society member Jay Mulberry said. "There were a dozen places that you could go and hear jazz. There were hotels. It was a wonderful area."

Schcolnik, who owns the adjacent Strand Hotel and a few additional properties nearby, is aiming for a revival. The Argentinean-born developer plans to convert the 90-year-old hotel into city-subsidized artists' lofts. "Our goal is for this block to look like those photographs... from the 1920s," Schcolnik said. "I'm putting my eggs in this basket. Woodlawn has to become what it was."

Top

Southside Solidarity Network holds alternative Woodlawn tour for students in November 2006.

Southside Solidarity Network (SSN), a U of C and Hyde Park activist group, organized a tour that circled from Woodlawn and 60th to 63rd and Cottage Grove. Topics include the contentious relations of Woodlawn with the University, often tense racial and class history, including the age of restrictive covenants whose back was broken in Woodlawn, and struggles over gentrification. They stopped at condos most Woodlawn residents and students cannot afford---and at co-ops for lower income families. And visited the Grand Ballroom--that residents cannot afford to rent. They held discussions with long time residents Carlene Fuller and Wardell Lavender.

Leaders Ale Goldenberg and Ebony Stevenson said, "You've got to find a balance with how much help you want the University of Chicago to give and at the same time not let it take over the community." The last 10 years in Woodlawn have seen the greatest growth in housing construction since the 1930s, but most of it is upscale. Top

Chicago Dinner holds panel, conversation on neighborhood problems, prospects and development.

The panel featured LISC/Chicago New Communities Program leader Susana Vasquez, Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp/Fund for Community Redevelopment and Revitalization Director Laura Lee, Quad Cities Director Bernita Johnson-Gabriel, and MAGIC founder Joseph Stickland.

New communities is an umbrella interested in all aspects and strategies of community development, including community development corporations. It has chosen just a few com unites, but is now ready to start working with the "border" and "receiving" (from CHA) communities on the edges of their core-interest neighborhoods. A consensus existing that Cottage Grove lacks color and cleanliness to attract development and jobs, along Cottage Grove in the 30 and 40 hundreds, it hired Cleanslate and enlisted students from Little Black Pearl Art and Design Center to develop vacant lot mobile mural art, new banners and bus stop art. Now this is being applied in Woodlawn. Core assets needed attention, they and designated lead agency WPIC, which held a Quality of Life Plan process, they concentrated on affordable housing, schools, commercial and retail development, health, cleanliness, arts. They sought flexible resources and partnerships/strengthened local organizations based on the plan. They also hired youth ("documenting scribes"who could find and tell the stories of the neighborhood.

The goal of the Quality Plan is to rebuild the community in 10 years as one of the best, a vibrant community "full of possibilities". One of the deterrents is the high proportion of impoverished and at-risk children (and Chicago is one of the poorest cities at taking care of children in just about every way). Another is that the community and its residents do not control the land or have the ability to redirect its use and type of redevelopment.

Plan implementation stresses

Brought up at the meeting: need for more whole-family counseling and resources (family survival and skill building) and to bring youth into the conversation and action.

LISC spokespersons said they cannot have a strategy or position on gentrification as the needs and preferences are different in every community they serve--Logan Square seeks to bring in more lower income people, Englewood anyone who will come. LISC was asked to help with CHA-receiving communities.

Top

The Vision of the Grove Parc Tenants' Association

(This group says that when HUD took over, they allowed the wrong elements in and neglected the 700 plus unit complex. GP is a housing and service resource the community needs, the say, and about a third of the units should be rehabbed and kept rather than the whole thing torn down. The group is receiving help from the Student-Tenants Organizing Project (STOP) but would like the University and Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp. to step up to the plate. )

HOMES:

Housing with quality living standards. At least 300 units need to stay subsidized, on-site, and get a full gut rehab. Subsidies not retained should be transferred together housing developments in the neighborhood. All replacement housing, on-site an off-, should be guaranteed to remain affordable for 30 years, through long-term Section 8 Contracts. Current residents must have the right of return/right of first refusal to all on- and off-site housing opportunities in the redevelopment plan.

Owners who care about tenants and who respect that we can, and should, be full and equal partners in creating a better, and stronger community

Management who do their jobs and have regular accountability meetings with the tenant council

Empowerment of residents through the tenant council and through tenant representation on all major decision-making boards

Security personnel who distinguish between residents and criminals and work collaboratively with residents to create a safer community.


We want to work with the owner to provide:

New manager selected by HUD in accord with Grove Parc's specifications, but can it beat out a HUD closure?

Chicago Maroon, February 3, 2008. By Tyler Warner

A group of Grove Parc residents gathered last week for their regular wednesday night meeting in the office of Southsiders Together Organizing for Power (STOP). The agenda for the night contained a singular item that seemed almost impossible three years ago when the ...Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the planned foreclosure of the Woodlawn apartment complex. That item was a victory party.

Those in attendance had cause for celebration. On January 15, the members of STOP and the residents of Grove Parc saw the fulfillment of one of their primary objectives: the transfer of Grove Parc's management from Habitat Company to Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc. (POAH). The change in management was the result of a ruling by HUD, which determined that the property's owner, the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corporation (WPIC), had to provide a plan for the redevelopment of the dilapidated property or face foreclosure. The decision was then made to seek new management and ultimately a transfer of ownership.

The apartment complex, built more than 5o years ago at the intersection of 61st Street and Cottage Grove, is showing more than its age. Boarded-up windows have become a common sight around the complex. Residents complain that the management has increasingly failed to respond to tenant complaints. "When I came here in 1991, Grove Parc had 22 maintenance men," said Faith McGhee, an active member of the Grove Parc leadership team and a long-term resident of the development. "When you put in a work order, it would happen that day. Now almost nothing ever happens."

Residents and HUD both acknowledge that crime, as well as vandalism of the property, has become a major source of concern. Grove Parc resident and leadership team member Lonnie Richardson, who is also a member of a number of community policing organizations, pointed to the architecture of the building as a a major facilitator of of crime in the neighborhood. Blind corners, labyrinthine cement staircases, and deep-set entryways conceal criminal activity form the street, which makes policing the area especially difficult.

The complex, made up of two mid-rises and a number of row houses, has become a notable focus of HUD. according to Ed Hinsberger, the director of HUD, the apartment complex was becoming a risk to its residents. the failure to properly address these concerns led to two consecutive failed housing inspections and, ultimately, foreclosure.

Despite these concerns, the planned foreclosure prompted a strong reaction from residents and community organizers such as STOP. After temporarily halting the foreclosure, HUD proposed a number of prospective redevelopment plans to the residents. When these ideas failed to meet the approval of the tenants, the Grove Parc tenants, the Grove Parc leadership team initiated its own nationwide search for potential developers. Under the tenant organizations's stipulations, the new developers would have to agree to preserve at least 300 of the 500 units on location, with the remainder scattered throughout Woodlawn. k

According to POAH, members of the leadership team contacted t he Boston-based management company after STOP learned that they had successfully acquired and renovated a similar property in nearby Kankakee, IL. POAH manages over 4800 previously "at-risk" rental housing units across the country.

Several members of the team pointed out POAH's history as a champion for low-cost hou8s8ing. "We're happy to have POAH on our side," said McGhee. "I feel as though they are going to help make manifest the vision we have for Grove Parc."

Five blocks to the north of Grove Parc, officials at the U of C have also been paying close attention to the fate of their neighbor. However, according to Hank Webber, vice president for community and government affairs, the University views its role as primarily advisory. "Our role is mainly to encourage and support the Woodlawn residents," he said. "This is a decision that is not and should not be made by the University, but by the Woodlawn community."

Webber, who currently serves on the board of WPIC, said that the most important aspect of the recent progress made in Grove Parc has been the development of a consensus among key organizations within the Woodlawn community regarding the future redevelopment of Grove Parc. He also added that he was favorably impressed by POOAH's national record. "I think steps are moving in the right direction," he said.

However, HUD stipulations require that POAH provide a plan to assume ownership of the property by this month or it is likely that the foreclosure will move forward. "If there is no plan submitted [by POAH] very shortly, we would have to foreclose," Hinsberger said. "The residents are living in some pretty bad conditions."

While all parties involved in the decision-making process agree that these conditions demand attention, the nature of that change has become a source of much debate. Tensions between the Grove Parc residents and HYD reached a boiling point in JUne when a planned meeting between Hinsberger and members of STOP and the leadership team resulted in the arrest of Richardson and several others after a heated at the HUD office.

Before POAH is able to purchase the property, they must complete a unit-by-unit inspection of the apartment complex. According to Karen Blomquist, manager of communications or POAH, the purpose of the inspection is to determine the financial feasibility of the transaction as well as the burden on the residents that would be incurred through redevelopment.

If, following its inspection, POAH agrees to assume ownership, HUD is wiling to work with the developer, but Hinsberger remains unsure whether retaining Grove Parc is the best option. While he said t hat HUD provided tenants with a proposal including similar numbers of on- and off-site subsidized housing to the tenants' expectations, he also stated that housing vouchers were also a consideration.

Housing vouchers are intended t o provide an amount of subsidization equal to the amount provided by project-based housing, but can be used to move from property to property. Project-based housing, on the other hand, is tied to a specific location. Under both plans, recipients are expected to pay 30 percent of their income toward rent. HUD then covers the difference. Currently, Grove Parc consists of 100-percdnt project-based subsidized housing.

"Some have said that vouchers don't provide the same security as project-based housing," said Hinsberger, "but in HUD's eyes, vouchers are virtually the same thing, except that they allow you to move across the country. "

In response to the presentation of vouchers as a possibility, Richardson said that a survey distributed by t he leadership team found that only a very small percentage of tenants favored a voucher system. This stands in contrast to a previous survey conducted by HUD, which found that well over 50 percent of respondents would accept vouchers. Richardson said that he was aware of HUD's survey results, but that they were misleading because the survey was conducted before the voucher system and other options were sufficiently explained to the residents.

While the Grove Park leadership team and STOP have served as the primary representatives and organizers among the Grove parc tenants, other residents have taken matters into their own hands. Last February, resident Luna Stewart filed suit against the Habitat Company. The case, which is still pending, alleged that Habitat had failed to pay tenants the interest on their loans and had failed to disclose the violations cited during the HUD inspection, both violations of the Chicago housing code. According to Stewart's attorney, Mark Silverman, the infractions on the part of Grove Parc's former management entitle Stewart and her fellow tenants to twice the value of their security deposits and the equivalent on one month's rent, which he is seeking.

For Silverman, however, the case is about more than a few thousand dollars. After being approached by Stewart in order to fight the foreclosure, Silverman determined that foreclosure was nearly inevitable and so turned his attention to fighting Habitat in other ways. "I'm not a real optimist.... If the place is going to get shut down, I'd like [the tenants] to leave with something in their pockets," he said. Habitat representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Prior to any additional steps by either HUD or the leadership team, the residents of Roe Parc will have to wait for POAH to finish their inspections. Even so, McGhee, a longtime tenant, is not about to relinquish her claim on Grove Parc. "I have a history in this community," McGhee said. "This is where I live. This is where my family attends church. Here we're surrounded by the best of parks and the best of transportation and the best of events. I don't want to leave my community. I don't want to be displaced."

Agreement with POAH seems likely, according to the HUD leader who spoke at a forum on campus February 28 2008, but improvement is necessary in the social services component-- whose funds are tied up in city contracts with WPIC and others.

Top

Meadville Seminary moving to Woodlawn- Note, This decision was revoked after the seminary ran into the 2008-09 recession. The future of the site on Ellis has apparently not been decided.

Hyde Park Herald, February 6, 2008. By Daschell M. Phillips.

Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary, 5701 S. woodlawn Ave., is planning to move from Hyde Park to the Woodlawn area. Lee Barker, President of Meadville Lombard, said the seminary has been interested in moving for quite some time. "For the last several years we've been looking for some property in the area," said Barker. "After his inauguration, Alderman Willie Cochran invited us to bid for the [Woodlawn] property."

The property is currently a vacant lot at 62nd Street and Ellis Avenue. If an agreement is made, the seminary will build housing, an administration building, a community room, dorms, apartments and a library on the property. The seminary owns more than five pieces of property scattered throughout Hyde Park that now provide space for these services. "We'll be able to accommodate the increasing student population and the distance learning department," said Barker. Barker said he is excited about the location because while it is in Woodlawn, it is still close to Hyde Park. "It's perfect that this is happening in the 20th Ward," said Barker. "With one foot in the academic community and one foot in the Woodlawn community, the students will have both the theoretical and practical ministry education they need."

If an agreement is made with the city of Chicago, the seminary plans to break ground in 2009 and move in by June 2011. Baker said the seminary plans to sell all their existing properties, and offers are already coming in. "Word of mouth created interest, and we are encouraged by that," said Barker. Top

Top

What's next?

At the summer 2005 rollout of the parking-police-clinics building plans for 61st and Drexel, University officers virtually guaranteed that at least one of the next charter schools will be in Woodlawn. Plans for the building sought to be sensitive to nearby residents. Opening could not occur before a tragic shooting nearby- temporary security station has been installed. Top

Parts of Woodlawn seem to turn around without displacement and with some affordability.

One such according to the January 22 2009 Chicago Weekly, is the 6600 block east of Cottage Grove. While housing prices have soared, they have come down some and developers such as Greenline, which develops only on empty land and or already empty buildings, plus city subsidy, still allows some to really be able to afford and move into-- and keep--houses in the $150-$185 range.

Concerns, demonstrations grow over fear of closures of mental health facilities as as result in part of the state fiscal crisis.

January 29 there was a demonstration at the Woodlawn Center, 63rd at Woodlawn by STOP and Chicago's Community Mental Heath Board. If Woodlawn is one th 4 o 12 th city closes, the nearest clinic will be in Englewood. Especially disturbing to some is that the burden is born by the South and Southeast sides, minority populations, and that it could be tied to pro-gentrification thinking. Affected certainly would include homeless including those trying to restabilize after prison (as experts said also at a forum January 31). The clinic is also seen as as community anchor. Details on the up and down controversy are in the Healthcare Delivery page.

The Woodlawn Collaborative- a new kind of interaction-integration coming to First Pres.?

Located at First Presbyterian, 6400 S. Kimbark. http:/www.woodlawncollaborative.org, woodlawn.collaborative@gmail.com.

Woodlawn Collaborative announced. Call, followed by article about.

Announcing The Woodlawn Collaborative!


I'm writing all of you offer you to participate in the Woodlawn Collaborative. The Woodlawn Collaborative proposes a shared space of students and south-side residents to work on collaborative art, education, and political activities. The project would be initially funded by the University of Chicago, however it is driven by an ad-hoc committee of students and local artists and educators committed a project that is socially progressive and politically empowering for everyone on the south side.

The University of Chicago Community Service Center (UCSC) has begun outreach with First Presbyterian Church, a historic church in Woodlawn at 64th St. and Kimbark Ave., to allow our fledgling group space in exchange for a donation-- all parties are very enthusiastic about the space and the potentials for programming activities. Programming could include everything from theater performances and art exhibitions, activist office and meeting space, after-school programs, and popular lectures and classes open to the public. Although the organization's structure is yet to be determined, we intend for the space and associated funding to be managed by students and local residents with equal representation. We invite you to join us in our organizing work and envisioning what this space should be.

Attached is a survey of interest. At this stage the collaborative is working on a proposal to submitted by the end of next week to the UCSC and the university administration. The proposal will lay out how we propose to organize the space and to demonstrate that there is enough student interest to sustain it. The survey will be a document giving the university a sense that not only are students interested in using the space, but also that it will allow for unprecedented kinds of student engagement.

To this end I ask that you use this survey as a chance to put forward new projects or to expand ones you are already working on. This means that active groups are welcome to use this space to run similar programming as they do now, possibly event giving a more permanent home, and also to try out new things. This is however, not limited to pre-existing groups. Individuals are welcome offer projects or even groups that could be newly created using this space (tutoring programs, artistic performances, etc.) I encourage you to be creative, this is not a commitment to actually put on the event, so be wacky, be "out-there," suggest things that no one has ever done before. That being said please be as specific as possible so that the surveys have a real "pop" that makes this proposal sound exciting.

To repeat: Fill out of survey, let us know your ideas.

Spread the word, forward this email and circulate the survey. The more people we get involved the better. It would be a shame if a great idea was missed because someone didn't hear about the project.

Thank you for your time. We look forward to your ideas,
-Luis Brennan

Mission: to create a shared space for arts, education and community empowerment in Woodlawn to make possible a more critical engagement with the issues that affect participants' lives and give them the tools to effect meaningful progressive change. An incubator for a new generation of artists, activists, and social thinkers.

Opportunities for youth including in arts, music, leadership training, youth empowerment; for artists and musicians through exhibition, workshops, performance, studio space, and biweekly musical jam sessions. And for community members through meeting space, access to resources, and partnership opportunities.

Partners: 64th Street Print Studio, Art Should, Community Jam, Dayna Kris Studio, Gingarte Capoeira, The Good Lyfe, Hyde Park Community Players, Hyde Park Learning Resource Center, Jelly, Kalapriya Indian Dance Studio, Literacy Works, MAGIC Metropolitan Area Group Igniting Civilization), Platypus Affiliated Society, Queers and Associates, Shower Songsters, Southside Solidarity Network, Southside Together Organizing for Power, Splash! Chicago, Students for a Democratic Society, Theater as Weapon, UC Dancers, UT/TAPS (University Theater Teaching Lab), Woodlawn After School Kids Program (WASKP).

 

The Bridge. The Woodlawn Collaborative connects students in Hyde Park with their neighbors to the south. Chicago Weekly. April 19, 2009. By Harry Backlund

Huge, empty fields spread across the Midway at 59th Street and the wide expanse of Washington Park borders Cottage Grove Avenue to the west. Few University of Chicago student, buildings, or student-targeted shops are spotted past these buffer zones, and fewer still go south of the traditional boundary of 61st street. Private property stickers are plastered on the doors of University buildings. and a private police force is ready to enforce them. In Hyde Park, one-way streets and an island-like apartment complex in the middle of 55th Street complicate through traffic, setting this area apart from the rest of Chicago's grid. There are no physical walls; these borders between the University of Chicago and the communities around it are soft and sometimes porous, but they effectively divide the geography of the South Side into separate University and community spaces. The Woodlawn Collaborative wants to change this.

Plans are being finalized, funding has been approved, and it seems likely that in the coming weeks , the Woodlawn Collaborative will open a shared community space for activism, education and cultural projects in an unused part of First Presbyterian Church at 64th Street and Kimbark Avenue, four blocks south of the Midway. Numerous proposals for use of the space have been submitted from diverse groups -- from dance troupe sand community theaters to tutoring programs, literacy groups and tenants 'rights organizations -- and board members will soon be elected to manage the Collaborative. If successful, the project will be the South Side's first independently-run space shared between students and community groups.

Sitting in the center of the Reynolds Club, the main student hub at the University of Chicago, University student and Collaborative member Mike Schlegelmilch motions to the space around him and describes a different one: "Imagine a place as densely populated as the Reynolds Club , but imagine it outside of the University borders, where people get together independently and work on projects, learn from each other, teach each other." The comparison is effective; at the heart of the Collaborative is an effort to reimagine how University space is defined. "This will get students outside of the bubble and it will give community members access to resources at this university they would not have had before. Right now student groups feel sort of atomized and separated, and it's no secret that relations between the University and the community could be much better," Schlegelmilch says. It is an ambitious project and the expectations are high. "I could see this project transforming what it means to be part of the university community."

In various forms and under different names, effort to establish a collaborative space have existed for years. Ideas were first proposed four years ago when the student organization Naked Theater requested funding to start a storefront theater for performance and activism on University property in Harper Court. The proposal was turned down and Naked Theater soon dissolved, but its former members kept trying to set up an independent student space. After several unsuccessful petitions for money from Associate Dean of the College Bill Michel and the University Community Service Center (UCSC), the group was given $1,000 seed money. Fourth-year student Greg Gabrellas has been working on the project since his first year and remembers the initial grant. "We felt we were being bought off. But a thousand dollars is a thousand dollars." After holding an open discussion, the group used the money to sponsor an open community fair on the Midway. Hundreds of people from both north and south converged on the traditional University border for live art, a bake sale, a flea market, and discussions. The event was a success. "We found that there was demand from community organizations and artists to work with students and we found that that coincided with the University's desire to improve its reputation among South Side residents," Gabrellas says.

With the momentum of success, the group submitted another proposal, this time including community service and involvement as key elements. They asked for a 500-square-foot space that could be accessed 24 hours a day. Gabrellas remembers that moment as a breakthrough for the Collaborative. "bill Michel looked a the proposal and said, 'you're going to need more space. How about 5,000 square feet?' I knew he saw the potential." another important success came when First Presbyterian, which had previously worked with student groups in hosting the annual Art in Action festival, first expressed interest in the project. But after an initial moment of enthusiasm came a long period of waiting. The University cited liability issues related to insurance, and there was some controversy among student groups about expanding further into the South Side. When classes at the U of C began last fall, Gabrellas made a final effort and got his first firm answer: the University offered $7,50, dependent on conditions that included security, insurance, and evaluation procedures. A mass meeting was held, and proposals began coming in from interested groups. A grant from the Uncommon Fund provided an additional $10,000, Student Government eventually awarded $8,9000, and UCSC director Wallace Goode independently applied to other sources of funding that are still under consideration. "It seems very likely that the space will be functional by third week of this [academic] quarter," says Schlegelmilch.

Walking through the worn and empty school facilities attached to First Presbyterian, the interim pastor Reverend james Roghair describes the church's perspective. "This idea of the collaboration is nothing new. This church has been involved in community outreach for a long time." Founded in 1833, before the city of Chicago's incorporation, the church moved to its current location in 1922 in what was then an affluent white neighborhood. With the immigration of black families to the neighborhood in the 1950s, many congregations relocate, but First Presbyterian mad a conscious decision to integrate. During the neighborhood's worst years in the 1970s, the church worked actively with the gangs that were in control of the neighborhood and lost several members as a result. Standing in the pews of the church's giant sanctuary, Roghair points to chipped spots of clear glass in the otherwise beautifully colored windows. "All of that was done in one afternoon of violence in the '70s," First Presbyterian was also home to the city's first Head Start educational program, which began in the 1960s and came to define much of the church space.

In recent years, the church's congregation has shrunk drastically. The official number is around 140, but an average Sunday service attendance is about 30. The church still plays a strong role in the neighborhood, housing an urban agricultural program, a community policing group, a hot lunch program, and a food pantry that distributes more than a hundred bags of food per week. But that role is changing with the neighborhood. In 2007, the declining youth population forced the closing of the Head Start program. "At this point the church is gray, and the involvement of youth is important -- not only for our survival, but for our meaning."

It is in the space left vacant by the Head Start program that the Woodlawn Collaborative is to be established. There are several large classrooms, a lounge, an a large gymnasium, the last of which is currently closed because of the paint flaking from the ceiling. The rooms are old, and maintenance and accessibility may be an issue, but it has clear potential as a community spaced. "Even though this church is a small congregation, it sees itself as growing, and growing as this community grows," says Roghair. With the potential of new relations between the University and the community, the reverend is hopeful. "It's exciting to see them trying to be good neighbors. Of course, because of past antagonisms, that won't sit well with everyone. But this is the beginning of a new day." It's a conviction that Gabrellas shares "Some people may detest our presence there, but I think it's our job to sway them."

There is money, there is as building, and there are groups who want to use both of them to share ideas and resources in new ways. But will enough students choose to venture south of the Midway to create a meaningful place? Gabrellas understands the challenge better than anyone. "This project needs to show that this place is not by nature a cultural wasteland -- it's just that there are no institutions in place that will allow exciting production to take place." With the new student dormitory at 61st Street and Ellis Avenue opening next fall, the University geography is shifting to the south. The Woodlawn Collaborative hopes this will carry over to students feeling comfortable spending time south of the Midway. So far, there are no definite arrangements for transportation, although UCSC vans will be available and there is talk of rerouting the University's South Route shuttle in that direction. But while there are still serious obstacles to be dealt with, the idea of a creative space shared by a broader community has never been so close to becoming a physical reality. Sitting in the Reynolds Club, the current focal space of university life, Gabrellas is compelling as he says what he and the Collaborative's supporters have been saying for years: "This can exist."

Top

South East Chicago Commission selects planner as new Director, February 2010

From University of Chicago News Service

News Office Homepage
Experienced city planner to lead SECC as it broadens economic development scope February 9, 2010


Wendy Walker Williams, an experienced city planner who has worked on economic development projects on the South Side and throughout Chicago, has been named executive director of the South East Chicago Commission, one of the city’s most enduring community organizations. She begins on Monday, March 1.

Williams, a resident of the Grand Boulevard neighborhood, most recently worked as assistant commissioner in the Chicago Department of Community Development. Before that, she served as deputy director at Gallery 37, The Arts Matter, where she was responsible for the financial administration of a $6 million job-training program.

Williams comes to the SECC as the organization broadens its geographic scope and puts new focus on economic development. Founded in 1952 by the University of Chicago, the organization was created to enhance the quality of life in the Hyde Park–South Kenwood area by tracking crime, documenting city ordinance violations, and sharing information of public concern. Recently, the SECC has expanded its efforts to include the Woodlawn and Washington Park neighborhoods.

Williams will work with a newly composed board of community stakeholders, business owners and residents from the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Chicago. Their mission is to identify, initiate and advance a set of common economic and community development priorities that will make these communities even more attractive places for residents to live, learn, work and play.

“The SECC is poised to serve as an ambassador,” said Williams. “The Organization also serves as a change agent within the area by bringing together individuals from the community who are dedicated to making these communities safe and prosperous.”

Williams succeeds long-time director Bob Mason, who now serves as Public Information Officer for the University of Chicago Police Department. During his 28 years of leadership, the SECC initiated programs such as the troubled-building initiative, a crime scene witness assistance program, a thorough analysis of area crime statistics and a regular inventory of commercial spaces in Hyde Park, monitoring the physical appearance of public spaces.

Shirley Newsome, SECC Board Chairperson, expressed her delight at having Williams aboard. “I am sure that Wendy will bring excitement, energy and expertise to our organization and help it to be a real asset to our communities,” Newsome said.


Hyde Park Herald February 17, 2010. U. of C. names new SECC head. By Sam Cholke

The University of Chicago has named Wendy Williams, an assistant commissioner in the City's Department of Community Development, to head the South East Chicago Commission. The South East Chicago Commission, or SECC, was founded in 1952 by the university to track quality of life issues in Hyde Park and the surrounding neighborhoods. Early in its life, the commission focused on real estate development during Urban Renewal. In it's more recent history, the commission has tracked crime patterns in Hyde Park and Kenwood.

As former director Bob Mason moves to the University of Chicago Police Department to continue the crime tracking he did for the SECC, the commission will likely turn its focus away from crime and back to other standard of living issues.

The board of teh SECC is also currently being revamped to include more community members.

"It's an interesting time to work with an organization that is at a crossroads," Williams said during a Feb. 12 interview. Williams will leave the Department of Community Development March 1 to officially take over as director of the SECC. Prior to her current position, Williams worked for teh Chicago Housing authority, or CHA, with Charles A. Hayes Family Investment Center founder Zenobia Johnson-Black during the turbulent early years of the Plan for Transformation, a program that resulted in the demolition of high-rise public housing buildings and a now-sputtering effort to replace them with mixed-income developments.

Susan Campbell, associate vice president for civic engagement at the university and a member of the SECC committee charged with hiring a director, said she met Williams at CHA and was impressed by her ability to manage emotionally charged public meetings. "I found her approach in meetings to be very thoughtful and often firm -- she's not a pushover," Campbell said. "She's also very respectful, which is a treat to have."

Williams, who now lives in Grand Boulevard, said she learned at CHA that dialog is a key to building trust an engagement in the community. "If we can't be perceived to deserve trust, we're going to have a problem," said Williams. She said "you just kind of know" when to move from deliberation to action on issues. She said she looks forward to starting the dialog in the commission's expanded area, which now includes Hyde Park, Kenwood, Woodlawn and Washington Park.

Campbell said the board will likely address a limited set of issues in the next year as it begins rebuilding trust in the community and determining its function in communities peppered with oversight boards. Williams said she's looking forward to "digging in" to the issues with community groups. "I'm a straight shooter - I'm just going to be really honest," she said.

February 2010 What's Up In Woodlawn panel discussion

Chicago Weekly, February 18, 2010.

A goodly turnout. Rudy Nimocks told of the past of Woodlawn and why he is hopeful. Other optimists include Arvin Strange, Program Director of new Comunit8es Program in Woodlawn, and ald. Cochran.

The big concerns are education (see Promise Zone) and affordable housing. Latesha Dickerson asked for volunteers to tutor in Woodlawn. inevitably the meeting turned to University relations. Nimocks said teh University needs to part of rather than apart from Woodlawn- which drew applause.

According to the Herald February 24, the meeting was heavy on information on the Woodlawn Children's Promise Zone. Leads for the latter include Rudy Nimocks (UC Comm. Partnerships), Ald. Willie Cochrane (20th), Arvin Strange of New Communities Program, Latesha Dickerson, its academic enrichment Program director. Derek McNeal of STOP (and Bishop Brazier?) was also on the panel. Networking existing schools and community partners into the WCPZ is a top priority. Should Woodlawn be selected in the federal RFP, it would get $25 million over 5 years. Fundraising is underway and several grants were announced (only in the 10s of thousands from Community Trust and Don thomson Foundation, more from UC Civic engagement. CPS has given $1.6 million-- for 18 months of academic enrichment, sport, arts programming and health initiatives. This is especially targeted for summer math and drama camps for example. Certain things can be done now and independently But other things cannot should Woodlawn not be designated, including prenatal care, parent education and job and social service centers.

SSA has assigned an intern to each of the nine schools in the zone, to do small group work work with students, individual counseling social-emotional learning programs and parent outreach, attendance, tardiness, medical compliance. There are also principal peer group meetings, parent support group meetings, and tutoring. Parents bet pro bono legal services from DLA Piper law.

Also at the forum, Cochran supported moving the 61st garden further into Woodlawn an announced a new quality medical clinic for Woodlawn coming this spring. Strange touted the 61st Farmers Market, block clubs, job fairs, and resource fairs for ex-offenders as enhanced resources for quality of life.


March 26, 2011 update. Woodlawn Summit 2 March 26, 2011 featured several topical breakout sessions. (A follow up will be necessary.) This report is on the education session.

Many stakeholders were present in the UC invited assemblage, though not many "grassroots" Woodlawn residents. A follow up is being planned.
Police Supt. Hilliard stressed that police are going back to the basics of police on the streets.

From the Chicago Weekly News, March 31, 2011. "Because we are." by Ryan Walach.

It was easy to tell, just by gauging he ambiance of the congested atrium, how things had been going since last year's First Annual Woodlawn Community Summit. The ambient morning's beams washed over the crowd that had gathered to develop a "blueprint for [the neighborhood's] success." To my left, a middle-aged woman with at least a dozen ivory hoop-earrings was manically penning something about urban agriculture; to my right, a young alderman, a police commander, and a mayoral ambassador--Shaquille O'Neil lookalike--were swapping business cards. The volume and diversity of the crowd alone were enough to justify the distinct impression that what was only recently imagined as a grassroots campaign to take back the streets had finally stepped out of the house.

The theme of the Summit seemed to be community responsibility and ownership for a neighborhood that badly needs it. Taking cues from similar neighborhoods across the country, Woodlawn's public leaders realized that, as Ald. Freddrenna Lyle put it, "business as usual is no longer going to cut it...[and] government can't do it alone." Roundtable discussions led by aldermen and local activists detailed new efforts to promote "creative solutions" by inspiring informal leadership-everything from education to crime prevention to neighborhood beauty.

However, the community's deeper problems cannot be listed so discretely. Thomas Trotter, the new principal at Hyde Park High School, eagerly emphasized in his presentation the role of the South Side public school as not only a place to educate local kids, but also, and perhaps more crucially, a consistent safe-zone for young people who live in gang turf. In this way, making school a more attractive avenue for students can reduce crime, which is one of the chief antagonists responsible for Chicago's notorious educational achievement gap.

While some of the speakers and organizational leaders in attendance--Rudy Nimocks, for example, the former chief of the University of Chicago Police Department--remember well the South Side's heyday, everyone seemed quite confident that Woodlawn's best times are yet to come. Vance Henry, speaking on behalf of the Mayor's office, reminisced about the times when the neighborhood matriarch --more precisely his grandmother-- was all the muscle you needed on the streets of Woodlawn. Calling on everyone to remember, or at least imagine, such times, he stepped down with an African proverb that could easily become Woodlawn's new motto: "I am, because we are."

Woodlawn Summit March 26 2011. Education Break Out Session. Gary Ossewaarde

A short video was shown. The theme was everyone taking ownership of the problems of schools and children and the importance of dealing with the whole child including physical activity and development. This somewhat merges with the theme of Race to Nowhere.
A lady from the West Side Collaborative for Civic Engagement spoke. She gave a website called kettering.org/chiwestgroup? What they do is bring parents and community residents into the schools (monitors, corridors, aides and lots more) and outside (safe passage, playground... and dealing with the hurdles kids face to even get to school). They found they can do a lot without money, but you have to make a “village” of the community before the village can raise the children.

Thomas Trotter, Principal of Hyde Park Career Academy, took up the majority of the time.

(As Ryan Walach reported in the March 31 Weekly News, "Thomas Trotter, the new principal at Hyde Park High School, eagerly emphasized in his presentation the role of the South Side public school as not only a place to educate local kids, but also, and perhaps more crucially, a consistent safe-zone for young people who live in gang turf. In this way, making school a more attractive avenue for students can reduce crime, which is one of the chief antagonists responsible for Chicago's notorious educational achievement gap.")

One of the school’s big problem is that it has to take lots of kids from schools that have been closed—across multiple gang boundaries and 35 and more minutes just to get there—and Hyde Park High looks enough better than the alternatives to the parents who care about where their kids go that they sent them to HP. That doesn’t mean all the kids coming are prepared, or performers, or care. Kids have to practice strategies every day, whether going down a gang path or resisting it--- “I can’t take x bus because members of such and such gang are on it, or it will encounter a rival gang and be shot at.”
He said what made a difference for him growing up is that through encouragement he took alternatives to “hanging out” on corners with gangs that seem to many kids to offer safety—instead he went to fieldhouses and playgrounds, where there were adults who mentored and kept them in line, and especially if they had sports aptitude funneled them to the school coaches. The adults also made sure it was safe to kids to get their park.

He recited things that schools do provide: it’s generally safe compared to the outside. And it has adults. He touted athletics and other structured activity that teaches the interpersonal and, he said, entrepreneurial skills, including managing people and situations, that the kids need.

It’s essential for community people to be with the kids after 3 pm. The high school has set up such a program and will have a full summer camp staffed largely by parents.

He has put each assistant principal in charge of one of the grades, with specific goals they and the teacher are to achieve. A partnership is being developed with the Woodlawn Promise Community. He said scores and much else are turning around and this or the next should be the take-off year.

Dr. Charles Payne, sociologist and author, Director of the Woodlawn Promise Community, and Interim Chief Education Officer of CPS spoke as much as was possible in remaining time. He praised the strong principals for buying into the program and working to develop and refine the model. He said the biggest problems so far (other than ramping up staff without reducing the commitment to doing program) are getting enough parents and other adults into the in and outside school program and reducing student mobility and stopping the moving of kids continually from one school down the block to the next.

One strategy that is really working is going back to something they did in the 19th century—kids teaching kids. The 8th graders can’t get enough of mentoring and tutoring the kindergartners-1st graders. The older kids learn they can teach, which becomes a viable option for them. They start to compare notes and take collaborative ownership. And it starts the job of elementary kids acquiring readiness.
For academics he warned that the number one thing is that schools have to increase the number of students EXCEEDING rather than “meeting” standards—the meets category is a joke in CPS and won’t prepare kids for college or much else, and if they do get to college they will waste time on remedial and get further behind.

The second thing is that it’s much more than academics. “THE PROMISE CHILD IS ONE WHO IS ABLE TO BE AN ADVOCATE, ACTIVIST, AND ACCOUNTABLE PERSON, A LEADER WHO IS A CONTRIBUTOR TO THEIR COMMMUNITY—in the school years, not just after, A PERSON WHO ASKS ‘WHAT CAN I DO.” They not only get along with each other but are responsible for each other. Without that we cannot counter one of the worst problems in youth today—VIOLENCE and a general failure of interpersonal relations in which people work against rather than with each other. And being responsible to and for others is the start of being able to function in the workplace and business. A motto being used in the promise schools is “teach- lead-nurture.” And it’s making a difference especially with the boys. Of course, you have to have faith in the kids in the first place rather than considering kids to be “problems” to be managed or solved.
Some of the elements introduced in the schools are

Algebra labs. High school kids are paid not just to tutor but to teach the junior higher under certified teachers who manage but don’t do the teaching. The junior higher in turn tutor the younger.

The parent program. 10 to 15 a year are trained and put in the schools—now each cohort takes ownership of their task—“this is our 3rd grade” or lunchroom, or… PS, most parents do care, but you have to provide supports to help them get around the barriers. The parents also do the safety patrols to school and in school, tutor, act as greeters (THAT HAS MADE A BIG DIFFERENCE IN BUILDING A SENSE THAT THIS SCHOOL IS PARENT-FRIENDLY) and form mothers and dads clubs.

Social workers in schools (takes outside funding). Something called IDPA-free from the state under a Dr. George Smith of MPI and Associates. This includes trauma counseling and 10-week sessions with groups of students.
Safe transportation to schools and recreation centers. A Faith partnership, in which the church vans take the kids to school and home in small batches—it’s helping with the ongoing absence and tardiness problems both Payne and Trotter noted. It’s under the clergy committee, with leveraging resources an centers collaboratively, creating a neighborhood directory of safe centers and services, and adopt-a-school. Note- the big problem for kids remains that the streets are not safe for them after 5 pm in Woodlawn and the feeder neighborhoods.
Reentry program for people who have returned from prison ages 16-24 but don’t have schooling and skills- Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp. sponsors 60 at ex offenders.

Health Committee—immunizations are now up 15% so fewer kids are being sent home in January.

Hope is to have a social service center at 65th and Kenwood.

There is a new collaboration with the Chicago Children’s Museum.

Chapin Hall is starting a Needs Assessment Survey (what families and children need for support)- 1600 will be interviewed, with 200 in-depths.

There is also a collaboration with Ounce of Prevention anti-violence program now also serving birth to age 8.
Freedom Schools will take place in summer. (This and the previous 5 items and the clergy committee work are also in conjunction with Hyde Park Career Academy)

Request that Woodlawn form a CPS Area—under consideration by CPS. And it is a Illinois Safety Area funded under IDPA Neighborhood Recovery Initiatives, which brings 80-100 jobs for youth and others for adults. Much of this is under Magic and something called MAP housed at 1st Presbyterian. There is policing team diagnostics, a parent component with stipends. Purpose is to rebuild the “village” block by block [which was the subtitle of today’s summit].

A new executive director of the Promise Community is about to be announced.
Major efforts need to be made on attendance, student mobility (which is 35%) and teacher mobility (60% have been leaving these schools within 4 years), building partnership with the high school, and realizing a new team of principals and police leadership.
To summarize the Promise model as articulated by the principals:
Involving and being responsible to knowledgeable, responsible parents;
Bringing in and training new and buy-in educators;
Principal and administrators being coaches and evaluators—principal spends half the day in classrooms;
Helping families and communities and their groups adopt the schools.