Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Editorial: Why won't a grocer set up shop in South Shore?

We've been all over the story with the empty Dominick's store in South Shore on 71st & Jeffrey. Now the alderman over that location 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston writes an op-ed highlighting her struggle to get decent retail in her community. This is something worth reading because in some way is affects everyone living in a predominantly Black community. She is right about one thing: "Our money is green like everyone else's."

BTW, do you think when major retailers do open in our communities are they doing us a "favor"?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

WBEZ: Neighborhood value a challenge for housing recovery

I only wonder how widespread this is. Buying property is all about location and this is anywhere. However, what if it was even difficult to get a bank loan on a property in a distressed area as this case illustrated:
This happened to my friend Leila Noelliste. Her middle class family wanted to put down roots in North Lawndale on the West Side of the city. Last year, 80 percent of its total residential property sales were cash transactions and nearly a quarter were considered extremely low value, like about the price of a car.

Noelliste wasn’t making a cash purchase. She offered $182,000 for a two- flat in the neighborhood.

“When we got it inspected, it was really sturdy. Good foundation, good roof, didn’t need a lot of repairs,” she said. “There were two sets of tenants living in it. It was just a good building on a good block.”

She had plans for her family to live in one unit while renting out the other. But those plans came to a halt because of the home’s value --its appraisal.

“It was appraised for like in the 140s. And we were shocked. I mean, I know this isn’t a great area, but that just seemed really, really low,” she said.

The bank would only finance a loan for the appraised amount. Noelliste and her husband Norman Baldwin didn’t have the out of pocket money to pay the extra $40,000 on top of a down payment, so they had to move on.
A less than 10-minute drive brings you to the Near West Side, where Leila ended up buying a home.

“Upstairs we have a master bedroom with a walk-in closet, with a master bathroom. And then we have two smaller bedrooms. One of the bedrooms we use as my office-guest room. And the other room, my son is in. So it’s a beautiful home,” Noelliste said.

They offered $285,000 for the place, and it was accepted..

“My credit was good, Norm’s credit was good. We had a lot in our savings. All it was [the lower appraisal on the two-flat] was the value of the house. That’s all it boiled down to. Which is baffling, very, very frustrating,” she said.

Here’s a family now living in a $285,000 house, but couldn’t get the financing for a place $100,000 cheaper in a less desirable neighborhood.
I wonder how this is possible, if only I knew people who were involved with mortgages, real estate, and finance.

Beyond that read the whole article.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Simeon ??? High School

Location: Simeon Career Academy, 8147 South Vincennes Avenue, Chicago, IL 60620, USA
It has been known as Simeon Vocational and is currently Simeon Career Academy, but what will the future hold. This past week the Chicago Public Schools announced the discontinuance of the electrical and automotive programs . Previously, they discontinued the cosmetology, graphics and machine programs. 

So since the school is no longer focusing on vocational training what is the focus? Better yet, what is the future. Is this the first phase of "reengineering" the school into a "selective enrollment" school, STEM??? Academy, or turning it over to a charter school operator? 

While the cosmetology program crashed and burned, the school made great strides improving their image and education offerings. Simeon was rebuilt in the 90's for $35 million which is approximately what CPS has spent on the additional for Jones and approximately half of which they spent on Payton. 

Let's keep our eyes on this.

Rich Miller: Want to reduce violent crime in Chicago? Cut prison sentences
The columnist and blogger at Capitol Fax discusses in his Crain's column one solution to the issues of crime & violence in Chicago neighborhoods and it's somewhat surprising:
A brazen afternoon armed robbery of passengers on an Orange Line el train. A hundred people shot in a week. Thirty people shot in 13 hours.

Can part of the answer really be to lower some state criminal penalties? Yep, and the reasons are pretty simple.

We're not locking up enough truly dangerous people for long enough. Doing so would put a monumental strain on our already horribly crowded prison system. Short of finding state money to build and staff more prisons (and there isn't any), we've got to clear some room for the truly bad guys.

The state inmate population has risen 10 percent over the past decade, to 48,819 at the end of June from 44,379 at the end of June 2004. Gov. Pat Quinn asked for a $100 million increase in the Department of Corrections' budget this year, but because of disagreement in Springfield over the income tax increase, the department's budget has remained flat at about $1.2 billion.

The idea that we're locking up too many people for too long is starting to catch on with voters, too. A July 15 Rasmussen Results LLC poll found that a plurality of likely voters, 44 percent, agree that there are too many Americans in prison. Only 31 percent disagree.
BTW, here's another wrinkle in this:
Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel accomplished the impossible, working out a deal with the National Rifle Association on a bill in the Illinois General Assembly to toughen penalties for gun-related crimes. But the bill unexpectedly was killed by the House Black Caucus, which used a parliamentary procedure to block passage.

Since most gun crimes happen in districts represented by Black Caucus members, you'd think they'd be the last people to stand in the way of the bill.

But African-American legislators also represent an outsized group of folks caught up in the state's harsh criminal penalties. They were sick and tired of penalty enhancement bills and wanted reform. They also pointed to the huge cost of the proposal, sponsored by Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside. Coming up with that money most certainly meant cuts to programs that black legislators hold dear.
Read the whole thing. And let Rich Miller and us at the blog know what you think!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Remember the Whole Foods Market groundbreaking from earlier this month?

If you missed the groundbreaking earlier this month for the Whole Foods Market coming to 63rd/Halsted, guess who was there to record the proceedings - our old friend artistmac. He recorded these festivities in two parts and posted here for your enjoyment. Here's a description written by artistmac for those two-part videos:
On July 1, 2014 at 10 in the morning, ground was broken on the northwest corner of 63rd and Halsted for Englewood Plaza, which will be anchored by the south side of Chicago's first Whole Foods grocery store.

As late as the 1950's, the shopping district centered around 63rd and Halsted (and extending for several blocks in all directions) was the second largest, in terms of dollar sales, after the Loop. Sears (with a Hillman's grocery store in the basement, Walgreens', Kresge's (a Woolworth's style five and dime),Wieboldts, L.Fish Furniture, Jewel Food Store, the Englewood and Southtown Theaters -- they were all there, within a few blocks of each other. What caused its decline should be a case study in any urban planning class.

At any rate, by the 1980's, Englewood was anthrax for retailers and housing developers. Former Mayor Daley's fast track demolition program only hastened the decline; from the air, on Google Maps, Englewood's residential neighborhoods are an almost unbroken stretch of green, denoting vacant lots where houses once stood.

Englewood's population has dropped by two-thirds since 1960. It's population in the last census, 30,000, is half that of Lincoln Park, the location of Chicago's first Whole Foods, and its median household income, at less than $20,000, is a quarter of Lincoln Park's. But I'm sure Whole Foods has run the numbers.

What I'm afraid of is that this is the city's way of telling Englewood's current residents that their days in that neighborhood are numbered, and that the bulk of future residential development in Englewood will be for those who CAN afford to pay $4.50 and up for a gallon of milk.

It's happened before. Lincoln Park's working-class Puerto Rican residents were gradually kicked out in favor of the upper-middle class and wealthy residents who live there now.
Ah the "dreaded G word" has come back to the surface. Many of the people including Mayor Emanuel who were seen in these videos talked a good game about building this store with the community. Ald. Thompson certainly spoke of Englewood's history and she's right young people now could say I remember when just as her generation did. In addition we certainly heard about the difficulty of find fresh produce in their community.


Friday, July 18, 2014

REMINDER: Two events for Saturday

To start Greater Chatham Alliance July meeting with 6th District Commander Fred Waller on Saturday from 11 AM to 2 PM at St. Mark United Methodist Church @ 8414 S. St. Lawrence. GCA wants the community to come to the meeting to provide important intelligence to the Commander and show that the community cares about making their part of the city safe. I will refer to this early post I did for this event, and hopefully you would attend to share your concerns with Commander Waller.

Also, the West Chesterfield Community Association Block Part will also be on Saturday from 10 AM to 3 PM @ 9351 S. Michigan Ave. These two events almost overlap but you can always attend this event before you meet with Commander Waller or afterwards. You can also take a look at this earlier post for this event.

Here's hoping Saturday is a very productive, safe, and enjoyable day!

I hope you all remain safe on CTA

Surveillance images of robbery
I realize this story is outside of the scope of this blog, but this is certainly worth sharing. I ride the L everyday to get to work or whatever, and this is certainly sobering. These guys knew at what point to make their move and did it boldly.

This incident occurred on the CTA Orange Line and the perpetrators probably knew many of the passengers were arriving into Chicago knowing very little about the city and CTA. They also struck just as the train was on the longest part of the route without a station to stop at. No one either attempted to escape to another car through the emergency doors - something you're not supposed to do anyway - and no one hit the button to talk to the train motorman.

On the flip side the perpetrators remained on one car until the train stopped at Roosevelt. It's still an unfortunate incident and police are now looking for them.

BTW, reading this Tribune article we hear the head of CTA's rail workers union still wants to see conductors returned to trains. Conductor jobs had been cut since 1997 and even then the CTA union cited potential situations such as this to say eliminating those jobs was a bad idea.

Still at least we have ways of contacting CTA personnel if something criminal or dangerous is occurring on board the train and plans could be made to involve the police. In addition CTA cited that there are cameras on board most CTA rail vehicles, buses, and L stations.

All the same whether or not there are extra eyes on the train with police, CTA personnel, or surveillance cameras here's hoping you remain alert at all times.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tribune: Red Line south extension draws property value concerns

Red Line Extension
And there are those who are still talking about the coming extension of the L into the far south side of
Pastors from the Greater Roseland area and representatives of the Developing Communities Project, a civic group advocating for the 5 1/2-mile extension to the city’s southern border and the economic benefits that the project could produce, appeared before the CTA board Wednesday.

They raised concerns about possible declines in property value due to the project, sought information about relocating families and asked for a commitment to allow public participation in creating a compensation “formula” for property owners whose homes will need to be bulldozed.

The Rev. Elena Calloway testified that the extension would run behind her five-bedroom house on 114th Place. Her family already puts up with freight train noise, but the clatter from CTA trains running minutes apart would be too much, she said.

“Suddenly I am faced with the thought of screeching trains … (and) the possibility of elevated tracks allowing full view of my property and a total loss of peace,’’ said Calloway, 64, who is a pastor at New Day Ministries International.
If you're like Rev. Calloway and would like compensation for your property if it's to be in the way of the extension here's something to consider:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

DNA Info: South Shore Mariano's Possible, But Ex-Dominick's Site No Good, CEO Says

Vacant 71st/Jeffrey space by Eric Allix Rogers/flickr
Even though just last week Mariano's announced their going to build on land that was once home to a large steel mill on east 87th, it seems the question of the former Dominick's space near 71st/Jeffrey refuses to go away. Mariano's CEO Bob Mariano passed on the space but will still tour city owned lots in South Shore with 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston to find an appropriate spot for another Mariano's store. In the meanwhile Mr. Mariano's justification:
“It’s the location,” Mariano said about passing on the former Dominick’s at Jeffery Plaza, 7131 S. Jeffery Blvd. “It’s not the neighborhood.”

Mariano made his remarks last week, just before announcing plans to open a new Mariano’s location in South Chicago.

He also said he thinks the parking lot is the wrong size for the 65,000-square-foot store, he believes the entrances and exits to the parking lot don’t serve the store well and he did not like that the Metra tracks passed in front of the store on 71st Street.

“We’re not going to bring a store to the neighborhood that is below the standards of Mariano’s,” Mariano said.
On top of this Ald. Hairston added:
On Tuesday, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said she was aware of Mariano’s objections to the former Dominick’s location.

“Do I think Jeffery Plaza could be updated? Absolutely,” Hairston said. “But you’re not going to get rid of the trains.”

She said the city is still actively negotiating with several grocers to the move into the Dominick’s, which closed Dec. 28. She said she is also still courting Mariano’s to move to South Shore.
So where could they bring another Mariano's on this part of town? I could compare this to the two Walmarts located nearby us one on 83rd and another on 111th. While the one on 111th had been approved first the one on 83rd was completed sooner because the site was already set up for a store to be built. The site near 111th well they had some work to do before all was said and done.

This would be the case for Mariano's on the former steel mill site. Could they possibly find a site within South Shore which is ready made for a store much sooner that the store coming in 2016?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sun-Times: Rahm, voters need strong challenger in mayoral race

This editorial from the Sun-Times takes into account county board Prez. Toni Preckwinkle formally announcing her withdrawal from the 2015 mayor contest. Preckwinkle already stated that she had no plans to run but many polls had her leading Rahm Emanuel in a potential contest.
Preckwinkle opted against running for mayor, a decision that may be good news for the mayor but the same may not be true for democracy in Chicago.

Every politician needs a strong opponent to keep them on their toes, to make them answer the hard questions. It’s good for the incumbent and, more important, it’s good for the people they represent. In the latest Sun-Times Early & Often poll released Monday, Preckwinkle was leading with 55 percent to Emanuel’s 31 percent in a one-on-one matchup.

Preckwinkle, Cook County Board president, did the noble thing (and the safe political thing) by removing her name as a contender for next February’s mayoral race, saying she still had work to do reforming the county’s criminal justice, health care and pension systems.
The current mayoral field poses no significant challenge to the mayor — a status quo that would deny voters a spirited debate on the many meaty issues facing their city. But there is still time.

The Early & Often poll put Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who is seriously considering a run, ahead of Emanuel by 9 percentage points. The poll also put Ald. Robert Fioretti in the hunt, distantly. He’d have a lot of catching up to do with a 14 point deficit and 24 percent undecided.

Polls, of course, are snapshots in time and this poll came just days after a bloody Fourth of July weekend. And despite some strong opposition, Emanuel remains popular and praised in many quarters, with many accomplishments under his belt, not to mention millions in the bank.
Well it's not that long before candidates can file petitions for all city officers Alderman, Clerk, Treasurer, and Mayor. Will anyone step forward against Rahm Emanuel?

Monday, July 14, 2014

DNA Info: During Ramadan, Muslim Group Promotes Healthy Food at Corner Stores

A Lot to Save Foods @ 1207 W. 63rd St. - Tanveer Ali/DNA Info
This article mentions the Whole Foods Market coming to Englewood in two years, but there is a group who isn't waiting to provide healthy foods to the neighborhood:
During the month of Ramadan, which ends July 28, when most Muslims must not eat or drink while the sun is up, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network is handing out mixed fruit smoothies in front of two Muslim-owned corner stores to anyone walking by.

The hope is once residents have smoothies in hand during the group's Refresh the 'Hood initiative, they would be willing to talk, listen and fill out surveys about food shopping habits and options.

"They only shop at these stores by default," said Shamar Hemphill, a Hyde Park resident who serves as the network's director of youth and organization. "It's the only place here they can buy groceries. We need to work to make these businesses better."

Hemphill joined about a dozen people from the network as they talked to Englewood residents outside of A Lot to Save at 1207 W. 63rd St. last week.

The effort is part of the organization's Muslim Run initiative, which started in 2007 and targets everyone, not just Muslims. That initiative aimed to support businesses by improving the food they sell. Instead of just selling things like Cheetos, pork rinds and pop, the stores make it a point to sell produce, some of which is locally grown.
Read the whole thing!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Update on BBQ's on the Public Way

Location: 522 East 79th Street, Chicago, IL 60619, USA

Photo from Worlee GloverThis past Monday July 7, 2014 at the Park Manor Neighbors community Council(PMNCC) monthly meeting the issue of BBQ's on the public way was addressed. Two businesses were singled out about this issue. The Goal Post lounge on 71st and Luversia's Soul Food on 79th. Residents let owners of both businesses that they did not want businesses BBQ on the public way unless there was a special event and proper permits were obtained. The resident's wishes were backed up by Alderman Sawyer who had previously addressed the business owners. The owner of the building that houses the Goal Post, and who is applying to transfer the license to him, stated it would not happen in the future as well as he would address other issues with the lounge. The owner of Luversia's stated he did purely for marketing as his business has suffered from the negative publicity surrounding 79th.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sun-Times: New South Side charter school on hold due to FBI probe

Location: 8522 South Lafayette Avenue, Chicago, IL 60620, USA
Worlee talked about this school in the past, now there's a snafu:
A new charter school won’t open as planned next month in a South Side building owned by a politically connected pastor’s church because of a federal investigation involving charter operator Concept Schools, a consultant for the project said Thursday.

“The project is on hold,” Hermene Hartman said, citing the “legal difficulties.”

But in a statement, Concept officials they “are moving forward with our plan to open a new school and exploring which location at this point makes the most sense for the coming school year.”

In January, Chicago Public Schools officials approved the proposed Concept school at 8522 S. Lafayette Ave. in Chatham.

According to plans submitted by Concept, more than $528,000 in CPS funding for the school was to go toward rent for the 2014-15 school year to the landlord, an arm of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. The Rev. Charles Jenkins, Fellowship’s pastor, gave the invocation at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2011 swearing-in and served on Emanuel’s transition team.

Last month, the FBI and two other federal agencies raided Concept’s Des Plaines headquarters and 19 of its charter schools in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, including Concept’s Chicago Math and Science Academy in Rogers Park.
FBI officials have said the investigation involves an unspecified “ongoing white-collar criminal matter.”

West Chesterfield Community Block Party July 19th

Location: 9351 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60619, USA
Earlier this month we received this e-mail from the West Chesterfield Community Association regarding their Community Block Party additional information for this event is below. Expected to take place on July 19th from 10 AM to 3 PM on 93rd & 94th/Michigan to 94th/Wabash to Indiana.
Click for larger resolution

GCA July Meeting with 6th District Commander Fred L. Waller

Location: 8414 South Saint Lawrence Avenue, Chicago, IL 60619, USA
Fred L. Waller
We got this e-mail recently from the Greater Chatham Alliance
  • Okay, Greater Chatham Alliance Members, Chatham and other 6th Ward Neighbors:

    This is the meeting you can't afford to miss on Saturday, July 19th! Here’s YOUR chance to meet 1-on-1 with 6th District, Police Commander Fred L. Waller.

    That’s right! A private, 1-on-1 meeting for three (3) minutes with our Commander!

    This is not a gripe session!

    This is an opportunity for residents to give intel on:

    1. Suspected, or known drug houses.  
    2. Suspicious-acting, neighborhood teens.
    3. Troubled Buildings–-including vacant, or suspected CHA homes/apartment buildings with abusive residents.
    4. Notorious, daily, drug-dealing corners, alleys or streets.
    5. Resourceful suggestions and ideas show we are trying to help too!

    It’s for YOU to give anonymous information, concise information, and vital information to safeguard our community and stop the predators COLD!

    Be proactive and print, or type your info on paper with all details (specific addresses, descriptions).

    The police want us to work with them! GCA says let’s get busy and show we mean business!

    Please don't squander the Commander's time complaining about garage break-ins, car thefts, or petty crimes. This is the event to tackle bigger problems!

    Please note, we are at a different, larger church for this July meeting.

    Saturday, July 19th
    11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
    St. Mark United Methodist Church
    8414 S. St. Lawrence
    Parking lot available!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Capitol Fax: A sign of the times

Earlier today Rich Miller of the Capitol Fax opined on the coming Mariano's store at the former US Steel South Works and current Chicago Lakeside site. I was not certain what his point were but it sure sparked a number of comments in the post. All the same perhaps his "not feeling like jumping up and down with joy" is related to this point:
At its peak, US Steel employed 20,000 people at its South Works plant. Those were very hard, dangerous, “he-man” jobs, but steelworkers gave an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.
Redeveloping this massive site that billed as larger than Chicago's Loop certainly requires a long-term plan. Still I wonder how many people lament the loss of those jobs when US Steel shut down operations here more than 20 years ago?

The image to the left is of the Lakeside development click the pic for a larger resolution.

DNA Info: Mariano's South Chicago Plans Detailed for U.S. Steel Site

Credit: Mariano's IG
Mariano's is coming much closer to our part of town. We've heard the rumblings in the media and finally it's been announced:
City and state officials came out Wednesday to celebrate the announcement that a Mariano’s Fresh Market grocery store will be built in the shadow of the walls that once held ore for the U.S. Steel mill.

“The walls that used to exist here and in our minds are coming down,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “South Chicago is not an island.”

The grocery store is expected to open in 2016 and create 400 jobs at 87th Street and South Lake Shore Drive, the western edge of the former U.S. Steel property that is being rebuilt as the 500-acre Lakeside commercial and residential development.

“We felt it was important to commit to this project now,” said Bob Mariano, CEO of Mariano’s parent company, Roundy’s.

Mariano said it was important for the company to come at the beginning of the Lakeside development to help establish local hiring as the standard and to provide fresh and healthy food.
Also noted that this site is also being considered as the site for the future Obama Presidential Library should Chicago be chose to be the chosen city. So on the lakefront in South Chicago, in addition to Bronzeville, Hyde Park, Pullman and Chicago State University.