Monday, September 30, 2013

October, the return of the Dan Ryan Red Line!

[VIDEO] Believe it or not in October the closure of the Dan Ryan line will be at an end. The line would be reconstructed and trains will run once again!

Artistmac who recently showed us the Pullman Walmart grand opening, walked through the 47th Street CTA Green Line L stop. In another video posted here he noted there weren't many options late night for L riders during the closure along 47th Street. He's definitely looking forward to the end of this project.

In the meanwhile, in the middle of September we linked to an album from the CTA's FB page that showed the testing that took place along the Dan Ryan line. Here's hoping that in October the closed branch of the L will be better than ever.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Chicagoist: Rahm Emanuel Booed At South Side Basketball Tournament

[VIDEO] Well, I understand that booing politicians is something of a tradition here. In fact when the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last June at a rally Gov. Quinn was booed by Blackhawks fans. So what happened with the Mayor at a basketball tournament at St. Sabina Parish could be a sign of that.

However if you want to read into it, St. Sabina is a predominantly Black community and is home to the controversial Father Michael Pfleger. And thus this quote from Chicagoist: "Next, there's the tenor of Mayor Emanuel's actions toward the African-American community itself, which can be best described as an amazingly wrongheaded exercise in biting the political hand that feeds you."

Of course there are many issues facing the residents of the South and West sides of the city and most importantly Mayor Emanuel's most significant voting block who propelled him to victory in 2011. I'm sure many haven't forgotten the school closings and of course crime & safety is still an issue at the forefront for many.

Anyway, I don't want to read too much into that moment. The Mayor probably isn't popular in some parts of the city, however, it doesn't help that no one is visibly stepping up to face him in 2015.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Reader: Three families tell us why they ditched CPS

Graphic from Chicago Reader
In reading this I did the usually unthinkable, taking a physical copy of the Chicago Reader and read this article. I basically read about the first family skipped the second and hoped to see an opinion from a "minority" group. That's the last family you see here and the family that likely represents a majority of students at CPS at least ethnically.

Unfortunately these three families are troubled by the issues that occur in many of our neighborhood schools. They made the move to suburban areas because of it. Before they talk to the individual families therein, they make sure to point out why CPS needs families such as those in the article:
The exodus has had a deleterious impact on the city's schools. Middle-class parents tend to be zealous advocates. They're more likely to know an alderman or a reporter, and make noise about a problem their children's school is facing. The clout of a school system as a whole increases when middle-class parents have a stake in it. Middle-class parents can afford to contribute financially to their kids' school.

Most important, many studies have also highlighted the importance of "peer effects" in schools. They've shown that kids benefit from classmates whose parents have stimulated them cognitively from an early age, and who have helped them develop self-control and other social skills—the kind of parenting more common in middle-class homes than in poor homes.
While I started this article off talking about race/ethnicity, it's mostly about income. What can we do to keep children of middle-class parents in CPS schools where - according to this article - 85% of students are from low-income families?

BTW, I suggest you read the whole thing!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tribune: CPS figures show enrollment down

Well in speaking recently of Shedd School being closed this is not a surprise although I'm sure this article is talking about enrollment for the school year that just started.
Enrollment figures released by Chicago Public Schools show an overall decline from last year despite growth in the number of students at charter schools.

Total enrollment of about 400,000 students is 3,000 less than last year, the district said Tuesday.

That figure includes students at privately run charter schools, where enrollment grew by about 4,000 to 54,000, according to the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. There are 15 additional charter campuses in the city this year, with grades added at another 30 campuses, according to the organization.

More than 300 noncharter schools counted fewer students than projected by the district, and nearly 200 schools showed higher numbers than expected, according to CPS.

Enrollment took on added importance this year with the district's new per-pupil budgeting system, which allocates funding for each school based on the number of students. The district allayed fears of additional cuts earlier this week by saying schools with lower enrollment than projected would not have funding reduced. The schools with higher-than-projected enrollment will get an additional $18 million in funding.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Chicagoist: Rep. Bobby Rush Taking Leave From Congress To Deal With Wife's Health Issues

Best wishes to the Congressman and his wife:

Rep. Bobby Rush announced Monday he was taking a leave of absence from Congress to care for his wife, Carolyn, who is dealing with major surgery. Sun-Times Washington correspondent Lynn Sweet first reported the news after asking Rush’s office why the congressman missed two votes in the House on reducing food stamp funding and to defund the Affordable Care Act in the government spending bill.

Rush’s Communications Director Debra Johnson told The Hill the congressman was granted his leave Sept. 12. “He is grateful for the prayers, support and well wishes extended to him and his family on behalf of Mrs. Rush.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sun-Times: Rahm, McCarthy ride along with police officers in two of Chicago’s most violent districts

I wonder what they come away with on this ride along that the reportedly took on Sunday:
For at least the second time since taking office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has gone on a nighttime “ride-along” with Chicago Police officers, this time in two of Chicago’s most violent districts.

It happened Sunday night when Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy joined officers regularly assigned to the Gresham and Grand Crossing districts.

The mayor’s office disclosed the ride-along without revealing details.

Shortly after taking office, Emanuel did a similar ride-along with a Gang Enforcement Unit and came away with a few suggestions on how to sharpen the Police Department’s focus in the never-ending war on gangs.

Emanuel refused to reveal specific changes proposed by members of the Homan Square-based Gang Enforcement Unit, nor did he share details of the “one incident” that he said occurred.

But, he subsequently convinced an emotionally torn City Council to authorize tickets for people caught in Chicago with small amounts of marijuana to free officers to pursue gang and gun violence. The suggestion emanated from gang officers involved in the ride-along.

When you think of a ride-along, you inevitably envision a reality show such as “Cops,” where traffic stops, arrests and takedowns are captured on video in dramatic fashion.
But, Emanuel said his first ride-along was more about learning “firsthand what our police officers are facing . . . what they see, how they organize.”

Saturday, September 21, 2013

VIDEO: State Rep. Thapedi on "Political Forum"

[VIDEO] Now on YouTube, the Sept. 18th edition of CAN-TV's political forum with 32nd District State Rep. Andre Thapedi. He discusses the following issues: Illinois' pension crisis, concealed carry legislation, and the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). This is about a 25 minute video.

Friday, September 20, 2013

What to do with the closed Shedd School building?

Shedd School back in April 2012
While not part of the official closed schools list Shedd School, branch of Bennett Elementary School, had been closed down as of this year. While disappointing it probably shouldn't have been a huge surprise.

Having attended many meetings of the Bennett-Shedd Local School Councils it was noted that there have been an enrollment decline attributed to families either moving from the area or wanting to take advantage of other educational options such as charter schools. Whatever affected Bennett also affected Shedd School as well.

Whatever prompted this decision, Shedd School is now an empty building just like many around the city that have been closed in the past year mainly due to underutilization. Many communities affected are probably considering what they can do with these decommissioned school buildings. Can we afford to let them sit empty without a general use?

Over at RAGE's FB page there was an article about how a Kansas City neighborhood has come to grips with this issue. They turned one closed school into a community center.

If I recall correctly, this was something that was proposed by former 6th ward Ald. Freddrenna Lyle when unsuccessfully she ran for re-election back in 2011. Although in this case closing down schools hadn't yet found itself on the city let alone the 6th ward's radar. She proposed that when school is not in session that the buildings themselves be turned over to the community for their use.

So we have plenty of closed school buildings throughout the city perhaps it's time to figure out a use for them or at the very least re-imagine a use for the land they sit on. Hopefully if enrollment doesn't turn around for Bennett in the next few years I could see Shedd School becoming at least the new meeting place for the Roseland Heights Community Association for example

Also, if you want to see one argument in favor of school closings here's one presented by Artistmac in one of his YouTube vids. This is added while recognizing that there are many who are still upset with the school closings this year.

Finally, the pic below shows a sign announcing that for the 2013-14 school year all students will be attending the sister school at Bennett Elementary located at 10115 S. Prairie Ave in the nearby Rosemoor neighborhood. The sign was still posted to the backdoor of Shedd where in the past students would line up before classes would start for the day.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

AP: Agreement to cut pollution from Chicago rail yard

Photo by rmccallay on flickr
Looks like this freight rail yard has finally gotten an OK with some back and forth between residents, the city, and Norfolk Southern Railroad:
Chicago and Norfolk Southern officials agreed Thursday to cut diesel pollution from a rail yard on the city's South Side to address residents' concerns that a massive expansion project would add to existing air pollution and cause health problems.

The 140-acre freight yard in Englewood, one of the city's poorest neighborhoods, transfers more than 480,000 containers a year between trains and trucks. The company wants to add another 85 acres and another 800 diesel trucks a day, and is buying land from the city and residents.

Under the agreement, Norfolk Southern will install the newest pollution controls on trucks that move trailers around the yard by 2018 and install clean engines or diesel filters on cranes and lift trucks, while the city will alleviate congestion from the semi-trucks that sometimes queue on local roadways waiting to get into the yard.

The company also will set up a $ 1 million fund for neighborhood environmental projects and spend another $1 million on job training and economic development, officials from the city and Environmental Law & Policy Center said. It also will donate an old elevated rail track that the city will convert into green space.
That last paragraph let's break it down further with more information from the Sun-Times:
Englewood residents and their environmental champions have extracted a string of concessions from Norfolk Southern armed with a new study that concludes that the project would make the pollution problem worse in a neighborhood that has long suffered from high rates of asthma.

Norfolk Southern has promised to retrofit trucks and construction equipment. The railroad also has promised to contribute $3 million toward transportation improvements, thousands more to area schools and to donate unused rail spurs that the city hopes to convert into an elevated bike trail akin to the Bloomingdale Trail.
The Tribune adds:
Commissioners unanimously approved the changes Thursday after the railroad agreed to immediately clean up a dozen forklifts at the yard. By 2018, Norfolk Southern also will upgrade engines or install pollution controls on all but two of 38 diesel-powered machines that transfer freight containers between trains and trucks; the other two will be upgraded the next year.

Without the improvements, an analysis by the nonprofit Environmental Law and Policy Center estimated, the freight yard expansion would substantially increase pollution in a neighborhood already plagued by high rates of asthma. Using a computer model developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the group found that worrisome levels of soot could spread several blocks beyond the site.
Well, may many of these concessions be put to good use in Englewood. Especially the elevated trails and certianly the money for neighborhood schools. And may the enviornmental issues be alleviated.

ABC7: Englewood residents fight Norfolk Southern Railroad to keep land

[VIDEO] The story above aired Tuesday night on our local ABC affiliate. Worlee linked the coming of Whole Foods Market to Englewood with the ongoing project to expand a freight railyard nearby. It's often advertised as Mayor Rahm Emanuel's attempt to keep Chicago a hub for rail transportation.

We have chronicled this over time here and we even showed a video from Gaper's Block on the human toll of this project. In order to expand this railyard the whole community where this railyard is located will have to be destroyed. Of course those who own homes in that area will be compensated and what about those that don't want to leave.

Let's bear in mind that while it seems this is still on the minds of many Englewood residents, back in August this project was blocked by the Chicago Planning Commission. According to this story the commission my decide to bring this project back on track.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

FOX Chicago: Englewood residents voice concern over Whole Foods` high prices

FOX Chicago came to a RAGE village meeting tonight which was dominated by the subject of Whole Foods Market coming to the neighborhood by 2016. Another focus of this was all the other choices Englewood residents have as far as where they can buy groceries and mainly what was found was the many convenience stores that exist. In fact DNA Info took a look at these convenience stores and noted how the owners of these stores view a Whole Foods coming in.

Also it appears no one made a reference to the "dreaded G word". This would be the train of thought that dominates this future development as much as prices, convenience, or selection.

BTW, it's not everyday that an executive for a major corporation is able to attend a neighborhood meeting.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Englewood Mall TIF hearing September 19, 2013

 This information was provided by the Chatham Business Association regarding the Englewood Mall TIF District.

Attention CBA Community Partners:

Please review Sustainable Englewood Initiatives (SEI) testimony for Englewood's Mall TIF District hearing.

The second hearing is scheduled for September 19th, 1 p.m. at the Chicago Plan Commission session at City hall.

Click Here for (SEI) testimony Englewood Mall TIF District hearing.

The link above will require Microsoft Word to be able to access. Also feel free to drop us a line if you're able to attend.

Rep. Andre Thapedi on CAN-TV Wednesday

Information sent to us from a member of his district staff.

State Representative André Thapedi to appear live on September 18, 2013 at 7:00pm on CAN-TV.

State Representative Thapedi is an attorney and represents the 32nd District.

Tune in to CAN-TV Channel 21 or online at to view live.

Make sure to call in during the show to 312-738-1060 with legal questions or questions about the State of Illinois Pension crisis, Medicaid Reform and Obamacare.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ward Room: Rahm, Comcast to Offer Internet Centers Near Some CPS Schools

While a great idea, why not provide this to more schools around the city not just the welcoming schools (this is referring to those schools who are taking in students from the schools that are closed).
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Comcast announced Monday that they will provide Internet facilities around some city schools for students in low-income families.

The city and Comcast, in partnership with the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, will provide “learning zones,” which will be centered around five Chicago Public Schools “welcoming” schools.

(Comcast is the parent company of NBC)

The centers that will be placed around Mayo Elementary in Bronzeville, Bass Elementary and Nicholson Elementary in Englewood and West Englewood, and Hughes Elementary and Johnson Elementary in North Lawndale.

Students in these schools will have access to computers and mobile devices, which will provide electronic access to textbooks and information.
To explain what's in parenthesis in the quote, Comcast in fact owns our local NBC affiliate NBC 5 and those owns the content of the Ward Room on the NBC Chicago website.

Anyway, here's more information on the Comcast Internet Essentials program assuming that your school doesn't have it yet. This is the third year for this program according to the article linked above.

I just to find some more information and found it from the Tribune:
Comcast partnered with United Way to set up the five local "learning zones," which will feature technology training programs and events, as well as enhanced Internet access in the schools and public Wi-Fi service at neighboring community organizations. The learning zones pilot is part of Comcast’s Internet Essentials, a nationwide program that provides discounted residential broadband Internet access to low-income households. Chicago is the only city in the U.S. testing out the learning zones, which are expected to be announced by Comcast and Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a Monday event.

"It's a pilot that’s being implemented in Chicago," said Bret Perkins, Comcast's vice president of external and government affairs. "We're watching it closely and if it works, we'll look at whether there are other places we can implement it."

Internet Essentials is in its third year and has more than 220,000 families signed up nationwide. More than 14,000 Chicago households are participating, up from 7,000 at this time last year. The 14,000 represent roughly 15 percent of eligible households, said Matt Summy, Comcast’s regional vice president of external and government affairs. Families qualify for Internet Essentials if their children are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches at CPS. The service provides high-speed residential broadband Internet for $9.95 a month, locked in for as long as the child remains in school and eligible. Comcast waives its activation and equipment rental fees and offers the option to purchase a computer for $150.
I look forward to knowing where this learning zones pilot program would be expanded.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

63rd/Halsted Revisited: What would you like to see here?

Back in June I did a post about the area of 63rd/Halsted complete with the above collage of photos asking what you would like to see happen here. Many of us probably never expected it but by 2016 Whole Foods Market will set up shop at the vacant corner you see in the bottom left corner. This post would explore what I would like to see there of course this will always be a discussion and it's important to know what YOU would like to see there.

The future store is expected to be 180,000 square feet and the anchor of a complex consisting of 13 acres with room for more retail. What other shops could be utilizing this future shopping center having a high-end grocer as their neighbors?

A friend of mine heard about Whole Foods coming and started speculating on what else could draw people to this area. He was the first to think a movie theater, perhaps a major chain might want to follow suit on this corner with a 10 screen cinema. In this vein I could envision a development such as the River East Center  that contains condos, a bank branch, restaurants, hotel, Walgreen's in addition to an AMC Theater and Lucky Strike bowling alley.

While it's not likely anything as large as a River East Center would be built here I'm sure some type of multi-use development with space for entertainment and retail could work in this general vicinity. Let me emphasize that if there was ever an idea or a goal in mind it's to in some ways bring back that intersection as a major commercial area as it was up until the 1960s at least.

On this blog, we have shown various photos of how it looked in the past especially in this post back in 2010 which also contained some history of Englewood. The area centered at 63rd/Halsted was considered one of Chicago's bright light districts. In fact this map I saved from an archived copy of the defunct website Jazz Age Chicago shows what used to be in this area earlier as of 1926.

While the dreaded G word has come up in light of this news we can certainly be sure of one thing, the Whole Foods coming in about 3 years could only be the start of greater commercial activity. What else would you like to see here at 63rd/Halsted?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Tribune: Emanuel 'Sorry' for Burge torture era

Remember yesterday's post about Mayor Rahm Emanuel or MRE wanting to repair his image in the Black community and then this:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday apologized for an era in the Chicago Police Department during which many African-American men were tortured into false confessions for murders and rapes on the South Side under the direction of disgraced ex-Cmdr. Jon Burge.

The unexpected apology drew praise from longtime critics of City Hall's handling of a scandal that helped eliminate the death penalty in Illinois and will cost taxpayers more than $100 million when the last cases are settled. But as Emanuel seeks to turn the page, Flint Taylor, an attorney who has represented many of the victims, suggested the city should create a $20 million fund to compensate Burge victims who are unable to bring their cases in court.

Emanuel tackled the sensitive topic after a City Council meeting at which aldermen approved an additional $12.3 million to settle lawsuits, this time brought by two African-American men convicted after being abused by detectives working for Burge before he was dismissed from the force 20 years ago.

The mayor called the Burge era a "dark chapter" in the city's history.

"So yes, there has been a settlement, and I do believe this is a way of saying all of us are sorry about what happened here in the city, and closing that period of time, that stain on the city's reputation, its history and now being able to embark on a new part of the city and a new way of actually doing business. And that is not who we are, and we all are one or another obviously sorry."

Asked to clarify if he was indeed apologizing, the mayor added: "Here's what I mean: I am sorry this happened. Let us all now move on."
I'm sure there are many who are affected by this crime particularly those who made the false confessions and were sent to jail, however, one can only wonder if this is one of those forgive moments. Hard to gauge if Black voters will be responsive to this gesture in the future.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

VIDEO: Artistmac visits the Pullman Walmart grand opening

[VIDEO] The grand opening was yesterday - Sept. 11, 2013 - and just like he did with the Walmart in Chatham he takes his camcorder and documents the sights and sounds. I definitely wish to have his dedication because at times it's difficult to get up at much earlier than 7 AM to catch this grand opening!

Incidentially this evening I paid a visit to the new store. There's a lot of activity and kudos to all the work it took to make all the streets and infrastructure ready for all the traffic that's expected to come in. And mega-kudos for the last minute implementation for direct bus service to this newly developed shopping center.

ABC7: Mayor Emanuel works to repair image in African-American community

Charles Thomas reports on the mayor's efforts to repair his relationship with the Black community:
If polls suggest the mayor's popularity among African-Americans has slipped, he's working hard to repair the damage.

The mayor began his day surrounded by African-American business leaders and politicians promoting a September 21st football game to benefit historically black colleges.

"This game is about the community. So the mayor supports it because it's an example of what you can do," said Everett Rand, Chicago Football Classic.

"Most importantly it's about the dedication we all have to making sure every child goes to college," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Minutes later, Emanuel proposed re-naming Stony Island Avenue in honor of a religious and civil rights leader, the late Bishop Arthur M. Brazier.

"Bishop Brazier is larger than life in the African American Community on the South Side. He's made tremendous contributions to our community," said Ald. Michelle Harris, 8th Ward.

"In my view the street naming is a small tribute for somebody who's done big things," said Mayor Emanuel.

After winning 59% of the black vote in 2011, worsening crime, unemployment and school closings have raised questions about Emanuel's image.

"More substantive work needs to be done as it relates to economic empowerment in our neighborhoods," said Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th Ward.

Also this month, the mayor has promised a Whole Foods store in Englewood, delivered a bus line to the new Pullman Walmart within hours, and appears to have made good on a promise last spring to involve more black workers on the Red Line reconstruction.

"I don't know his political motivation if there is one behind it so I'm not going to speculate as to that," said Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th Ward.
It's not that long now before the next mayoral election. Worlee even speculated about the timing of the Whole Foods Market coming to Englewood, perhaps there was some politics considered with that timeline. Of course this all depends on who might make the Mayor sweat in 2015.

Who could credibly step up to the plate and run against him then? And hopefully they've started the groundwork right now.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pullman reborn & the story behind the Pullman-Walmart CTA Shuttle

In all the excitement over Whole Foods Market coming to Englewood by 2016, it breezed by me that Walmart is coming to the Pullman neighborhood today. In fact it's about of a surprised and unfortunately had little idea that by September the store would be open for business.

CBS 2 had recently done a story about how Pullman would be reborn with this Walmart. That's the video you see below:

Beyond that here are some updates on CTA bus services to the Pullman Walmart. I posted an e-mail sent from Ald. Beale last night and there is a story of sorts behind that.
Instead, a jubilant Beale announced at Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony that the CTA had done an about-face under apparent pressure from City Hall. No longer would CTA buses end more than five blocks away from the new Walmart at 109th and Doty Rd. A temporary shuttle, called the “111A Pullman Shuttle,” will fill in the gap until a permanent solution can be found.

“I want to thank CTA for providing bus service first thing tomorrow,” Beale, chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, said to the cheers of Walmart employees Tuesday.

Emanuel then took the podium at the revival-style ceremony and used trademark sarcasm to send a message to CTA President Forrest Claypool, who was not in attendance.

“This is a great day. Now, I would have been here a little earlier, but I got dropped off about five blocks (away) by CTA and I had to walk” the rest of the way, the mayor joked.

“Forrest ain’t here. Whatever. He’ll be here tomorrow to make sure that bus is here every 20 minutes. But, that’s actually a testament to Anthony [Beale] being clear and getting what he deserves and what is appropriate. You don’t build roads. You don’t build great stores like this so people get dropped off five, six blocks away. They’ve got to get in here.”

A CTA spokesman on Monday had said the CTA was talking to Beale about bus service, but would not be able to provide it for Wednesday’s opening. However, Beale said that after he went public with his broken promises charge on Monday, Claypool called him Tuesday; was “very, very apologetic,’’ and promised service.
Oh yeah there was some finger point on this although someone dropped the ball here:
Claypool refused to comment, but other CTA sources pointed fingers at the developer of the massive Pullman Park complex that houses the new Walmart for failing to give the transit agency the required 60 days’ notice in advance of the store opening.

“We were running as fast as we could, but we didn’t quite make it. The developer is the culprit,” a CTA source said.

“If we’d gotten the required notice, this would have been a piece of cake,” the source said. “Instead, we’ll start bus service [Wednesday] and work with the developer to get the information we should have gotten months ago about store traffic, how it’ll build over time and what the residential population is likely to be so we can develop a long-term plan that makes sense.”
Ald. Beale refers to this as a technicality given that CTA should have know for a long time when this Walmart was going to open and plans were being made and documents signed to bring direct CTA Bus Services here.

While this was a solution before the notice of the Route 111A according to the Tribune: "transit officials said they were working on a solution to extend the No. 106 East 103rd and No. 111 111th/King Drive routes"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The CTA has created a Pullman Shuttle for the new Walmart

Ald. Anthony Beale sent an e-mail out this evening containing the information below, it seems CTA was quickly able to put together a bus service plan for the Walmart Supercenter to open on Wednesday. The plan seen here won't be the final plan and I'm sure as always service would always be tweaked.
Click for larger resolution
111A Pullman Shuttle

Pullman neighborhood tomorrow in conjunction with the opening of a new Walmart store at 10900 S. Doty Avenue.

The CTA will offer the #111A Pullman bus shuttle every 20 minutes on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and on weekends and holidays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to accommodate ridership during periods when demand is expected to be highest. This service will remain while a final service plan is reached with the developer and community.

"The CTA is pleased to be able to offer additional bus service in this growing community and serve patrons, workers and residents in the neighborhood," said CTA President Forrest Claypool. "This service has been put in place as we continue to develop a final service plan with the developer and the community."

"I am pleased that we have reached a solution for residents, the community, and workers at the newly opened Pullman Park Walmart development," said Alderman Anthony Beale. "I appreciate the willingness of Forrest Claypool and the Chicago Transit Authority to reach an agreement that will make the opening of this store the best it can be."

From 111th Street/King Drive, #111A buses (to Pullman Park) will operate south on King Drive to 113th Street, then will travel via 115th Street (due to construction reroute), Cottage Grove, 111th Street, Doty to 109th where they will then enter the Pullman Park via private roads and loop around the parking lot and CTA access road. Return trip #111A buses (to 111th/King Drive) will travel to Doty Avenue and travel the reverse route. The route will make connections with the 111th and 115th street bus routes.

Ald. Beale upset about lack of CTA services to new Pullman Walmart

If I recall correctly the 111 bus one terminated in the Pullman neighborhood before the changes last year that split that route into two. The 111 goes down 111th street after turning on Cottage Grove and the 115 goes down 111th street after turning down King Drive. Also noted by John Hilkevitch from the Tribune there's also the 106 bus that runs on East 103rd St. however the article failed to mention that it serves Olive-Harvey College & terminates at the bus garage at 103rd & Stony Island. Those are the only nearby routes to the Walmart that's expected to open near the Bishop Ford (or Calumet) Expressway on Wednesday - with a grand opening Today.

Now we're going to pull some info from the aforementioned Tribune article:
Calling it a matter of "transportation justice," Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, said CTA officials have violated an agreement signed in 2011 to provide bus service to the new Wal-Mart, at 10900 S. Doty Ave. in the Pullman Park neighborhood.

"When we first began planning for Wal-Mart, CTA was a part of the discussion and said when the store opens, they would provide bus service,'' said Beale, chairman of the City Council transportation committee.

CTA bus routes No. 106 East 103rd and No. 111 111th/King Drive currently stop at Cottage Grove Avenue, which is several blocks from the store that is part of a $135 million development.

Beale said he is outraged and he threatened to convene public hearings on the CTA bus routes if the situation is not rectified by the time the Wal-Mart opens this week.

The alderman said the retail developer built the site to accommodate buses with a bus turnaround and nearby sidewalks for commuters. He said CTA officials told him it would cost $680,000 a year to extend the two bus routes to the Wal-Mart. But Beale said the costs would be offset by the additional riders making trips to the store.
The Sun-Times has more:
Walmart workers have been walking 5 1/2 blocks from two bus stops to Walmart at 109th and Doty Road to prepare the store for opening, even though the developer spent $20 million on rebuilding Doty to create a natural turnaround for buses, Beale said.

Beale said he had reached the “boiling point’’ in his efforts to persuade the CTA to honor its commitments in a June 16, 2011 written agreement to extend bus service to Walmart.

“They’re reneging on their agreement,’’ said Beale, chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee.

Once the superstore opens to the public on Wednesday, Beale said, “who is going to carry their goods five blocks?’’ Plus, Walmart will be open until midnight, making such a walk “a safety issue,’’ Beale said.

CTA bus service will not be ready in time for Tuesday’s ceremonial ribbon cutting with Beale and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, nor by Wednesday’s opening to the general public, CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase conceded Monday.
WGN did a story about this on their news programming as well

Monday, September 9, 2013

WATCHDOGS: Tally in Illinois grant-fraud probe so far: 13 charged, $16M embezzled

I'm going to focus on one case amongst others mentions and this involves the former owners of the Regal Theater near 79th & Stony Island. We've posted about this before and it seems like quite a mess because it involves government grants:
Defendants: Margaret A. Davis and Tonja Cook, of the Chicago chapter of the National Black Nurses Association

Filed: June 9, 2011

Charges: Mail fraud and money laundering

Details: Davis pleaded guilty, admitting that, with help from Cook, she siphoned about $500,000 in state grant money for “personal use,” including mortgage and credit-card payments. Cook, who also pleaded guilty, said “thousands of dollars” in grant money under Davis’ control went to pay campaign workers for former state Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago), who helped Davis win a $460,000 grant in 2006. Hendon hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing.

Status: Davis to be sentenced Oct. 8; Cook Oct. 15.

Defendants: Former County Club Hills police Chief Regina R. Evans and her husband, Ronald W. Evans Jr., former inspector general for the south suburb

Filed: April 4, 2012

Charges: Conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering

Details: The Evanses admitted spending about half of a $1.25 million commerce department grant on gifts for family members and friends and to pay off personal debt, including a mortgage on the New Regal Theater on Chicago’s South Side. State Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago) helped the couple’s not-for-profit organization, We Are Our Brother’s Keeper, get that state grant, which was to be used for a job-training program that was part of theater restoration efforts. Trotter has not been charged.

Status: Regina Evans to be sentenced Oct. 15; Ronald Evans Dec. 2.

Defendants: Regina R. Evans and her brother Ricky McCoy, former executive director of We Are Our Brother’s Keeper

Filed: March 19, 2013

Charges: Money laundering, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and witness tampering

Details: The former County Club Hills police chief and her brother admitted conspiring with an unnamed witness to create a story for investigators that falsely claimed the $1.25 million commerce department grant was used for job training. Her brother also admitted taking part in the money-laundering scheme.

Status: Regina Evans to be sentenced Oct. 15; McCoy Jan. 4.

Defendant: Jeri L. Wright, daughter of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright

Filed: April 10, 2013

Charges: Money laundering and making a false statement before a grand jury

Details: Wright, described as a “close associate and friend” of Regina and Ronald Evans, is accused of aiding the Evanses in their money-laundering scheme.

Status: Trial set for Oct. 16.
It's interesting that Donne Trotter's name was brought up we may already know of his legal issues involving almost taking a gun on a flight at O'Hare Airport. If there are legal people reading this blog, on what basis could the State Senator have been charged in this case?

Chicagoist noted this and this is a last minute addition to this post. It involves former State Rep. Constance Howard:
Defendant: Lloyd Kelly, former executive director of the Let’s Talk, Let’s Test Foundation, an AIDS awareness group

Filed: July 11, 2012

Charge: Mail fraud

Details: Kelly is accused of illegally spending grant money on things including his home and office rent for since-retired state Rep. Connie Howard (D-Chicago), co-founder of Let’s Talk, Let’s Test.

Status: Trial set for Oct. 1

Defendant: Retired state Rep. Connie Howard (D-Chicago)

Filed: July 17, 2013

Charge: Mail fraud

Details: The South Side Democrat admitted skimming tens of thousands of dollars from a charity golf outing for “personal and political use, including expenses associated with the promotion of her campaign.”

Status: Sentencing set for Nov. 21.

Sun-Times: Money, jobs on the line as CPS takes official student head count

School has just started and now it's time to see what the enrollment is at schools around the city:
Monday is a suprisingly important day for the Chicago Public Schools.

It’s the 10th day of school, the day that now determines how much money a school will get and keep this school year because everyone enrolled is officially counted.

In a year of myriad changes in the country’s third largest school district, moving the kid count to the 10th day from the 20th perhaps is one of the less harrowing, one that even adds stability to struggling school budgets earlier than usual.

School budgets are directly based on enrollment. Extra money for poor kids, for example, or for special education students, is allotted for the exact number of each a school enrolls. So the sooner the count is in place, the sooner a school’s principal can finalize staff.

And with CPS doling out money per student this year — money that now directly pays teacher salaries, for aides and supplies instead of allotting numbers of teachers to schools — counting kids enrolled at schools accurately is still essential.

Based on the district’s enrollment projections, principals have hired staff using the amount of money they were given based on those projections. Monday’s count finalizes what they’ll keep.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

VIDEO: Special Call In Show with RAGE - Whole Foods in Englewood

[VIDEO] Not long after the news about Whole Foods Market coming to Englewood, RAGE recently aired the latest edition of their live call in show Englewood Call. It usually airs every Wednesday at 7:30 - you can always watch the program live on the CAN-TV website - and the first edition aired last month. This program talks about Whole Foods and aside from one disrespectful call it recorded callers who definitely had feelings both positive and negative about this development. Run time is about 25 minutes.

Also Whole Foods donated $100,000 to Growing Home's urban farm at 58th/Honore according to DNA Info
The executives' donation will go toward building a new greenhouse and hiring eight more interns, according to a statement from the mayor's office.
While none of the farm's produce ends up at Whole Foods now, the mayor's office said the Englewood grocery store could be a buyer once it opens in 2016.

"We would, of course, be elated if Whole Foods wanted our produce," Harper said. "We're very appreciative to see how Whole Foods will partner and work with the community."

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The dreaded G word...

When it was first reported that Whole Foods was coming to Englewood my first thought was gentrification. A high-end grocery store coming to an impoverished community surely would bring about charges of higher-income people moving into the neighborhood in the future. As it turns out there is concern over the dreaded G word in light of this new development.

Over the years we've talked about this issue but mainly since we hope to keep this blog focused on the 6th ward or more specifically the Chatham community it's only in this context did we talk about gentrification. In this vein we did some posts on Chatham "South Looped".

The concerns raised here isn't much different than what's being raised currently by some Englewood residents and perhaps in other changing neighborhoods around the city. I'm sure the level of activism that exists in Englewood with RAGE as one of the foremost neighborhood organization there is a possibility that  many longtime families who live there wouldn't get squeezed out so easily.

Earlier the term higher-income was used however read that as code for race because in the context of Englewood that would certainly be a consideration. Who's to say that the gentrifiers moving in won't be Black? If anyone is concerned about the change of racial composition of this neighborhood there's a way to address that issue as well.

Earlier in the summer, I had posted a CBS 2 story about Englewood. It showed that aside from the issues of crime, the neighborhood had a lot going for itself. Not only the activists - as Aysha Butler of RAGE was interviewed - but also the history with the antique housing that still exists in the neighborhood. It even showed how some of the owners are doing what they can to keep them up. Also let's not forget about the transit infrastructure already in place is certainly considered an asset.

It only brings up another issue, who owns the property. While I have little information about real estate prices in Englewood currently when it comes to gentrification it's a matter of buying up the property before the real estate prices start to rise.

Will Englewood change because Whole Foods Market will be setting up shop at 63rd/Halsted soon?

Friday, September 6, 2013

I-GO: Followup to Why Can't I-GO With I-GO

I received this email this morning

Join Us at One of the Next Community Meetings to Learn About iGo Car Sharing in the 6th Ward  Monday September 9, 2013 @ 6:30pmChatham Avalon Community CouncilUrban Partnership Bank7800 S. State Street Park Manor Neighbors The Glass House at St. Columbanus Catholic Church319 E. 71st Street Saturday September 21, 2013 @ 11:00amGreater Chatham AllianceSt. James Church80th Street and Michigan Avenue 

Tired of renting cars for the day 

when you only need it for a few hours?
Want the benefits of a hybrid car for short trips?

Representatives from iGo Car Sharing will be 
present at each meeting to discuss 
the benefits of car sharing and 
bringing an iGo location to the 6th Ward.  
Pick up handouts, ask questions, bring a friend.

Back in May, I questioned why the organization was not actively operating in our community Later the organization was sold to Enterprise Rent A Car. Enterprise operates a full service location in Chatham and that will probably be the location. They are operationg out the Quality Car Wash at 700 E 87th.

iGo performing outreach in the communities of the 6th Ward

Click pic for iGo website
We've been talking about iGo car sharing in the past. It looks like they're beginning to do some outreach in the 6th Ward. They're hitting the neighborhood meetings this month. Please note that the CAPCC and Park Manor meetings are on the same night this month hence they're under the same bullet point. What you see below is from an e-mail announcing iGo appearances at 6th Ward neighborhood meetings.

Join Us at One of the Next Community Meetings to Learn About iGo Car Sharing in the 6th Ward
  • Monday September 9, 2013 @ 6:30pm
    Chatham Avalon Community Council
    Urban Partnership Bank
    7800 S. State Street
    Park Manor Neighbors
    The Glass House at St. Columbanus Catholic Church
    319 E. 71st Street 
  • Saturday September 21, 2013 @ 11:00am
    Greater Chatham Alliance
    St. James Church
    80th Street and Michigan Avenue

Tired of renting cars for the day when you only need it for a few hours?

Want the benefits of a hybrid car for short trips?

Representatives from iGo Car Sharing will be present at each meeting to discuss the benefits of car sharing and bringing an iGo location to the 6th Ward.

Pick up handouts, ask questions, bring a friend.

Also be advised that iGo is now part of Enterprise Car Sharing in turn owned by Enterprise Rent-a-Car and perhaps with there being some Enterprise establishments nearby iGo cars will be available at those locations.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Whole Foods coming to Englewood items

Vacant lot 63rd/Halsted by Sun-Times Media, Vincent D. Johnson

To start, here are a couple of articles from Crain's.

First a look at prices between Whole Foods Market, Jewel, Dominick's and Trader Joe's. The prices for the essentials many households would seek to buy.

Second we see some tweets regarding Whole Foods coming to Englewood. Not a lot of critical tweets although there are some critical comments we've seen about this development. Of course the main idea of that article is to elicit ideas as to where YOU might think Whole Foods should go next.

In fact if you want to see one critical comment you should check out Worlee's recent post here. He wonders if there are some political machinations here on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's part.

Speaking of criticism Chicago Tonight shows that not all Englewood residents are happy about the coming of Whole Foods. The term "gentrification" was mentioned by Englewood activists in this story!

I also knew that Joe Zekas of YoChicago would get into this act. He's also skeptical of whether or not this new development scheme would come to pass. I'm sure he's seen many over the years including the"urban renewal" of Englewood during the late 1960s.

Also from the Englewood Portal, there are mixed feelings about Whole Foods coming to Englewood. You see more mixed feelings in this article from the Sun-Times and in DNA Info that notes that there's already an Aldi's nearby the future Whole Foods Store. Of focus in the Sun-Times is the fact that the store got a $10 million subsidy from a TIF fund and the Mayor stated during his press conference that the TIF money is for site preparation.

Finally Economist magazine has also reported on this story making this point:
Commentators have observed that to expand this much the chain will have to go for a less picky demographic. It has moved into suburban areas with smaller stores and is offering more price promotions, discounts and its own range of products.
And of course as always your comments are welcome here, if you have anything to say about Whole Foods Market coming to Englewood.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Is Rahm Pimpin Englewood

I guess my age is catching up with me. I can remember the dreary bus ride along 63rd street to Lindblom Technical High School. The only non blighted spot on 63rd street was the 63rd Halsted Street mall. The mall had stores that included Sears, Jewel Foods and a movie theater. From my freshman year to my senior year the mall went from vibrant to blighted, Sears and the theater closed and all was left was small "junky" stores selling cheap substandard merchandise.

 Once the mall hit rock bottom the city under the direction of Mayor Richard Daley decided to tear down the mall and move Kennedy King College on most of the site and Jewel Foods would build a state of art store at the corner of 63rd Halsted. The college was built but the Jewel Food store was never built.  After years of sitting vacant the site was submitted to Walmart but they passed and several other retailers have been asked to look at the site but all have passed.

Now, Whole Foods has announced that they will open a store on this site by 2016. While I applaud the company for seeing potential in the site I only asked why 2.5 years later?  When it was announced that they were coming to Hyde Park, it was not 2.5 years later.

Hmmm, so I had to ask the questions that others don't want to ask.
  • Is the scheduled completion date set conveniently after the 2015 election? 
  • Is the Mayor taking advantage of a lame duck ineffective Alderman Joann Thompson? 
  • Is this a compromise to give the mayor access to the Englewood TIF funds?
The biggest question I have deals with the blow the mayor took several weeks ago when the proposed Norfolk Southern freight yard. Over the last several years, the railroad has been purchasing vacant lots and occupied homes from Englewood residents. The freight yard is scheduled to open 2015. Environmentalist, community organizations such as R.A.G.E have opposed the way the land has and is being acquired and where the freight yard is going to be located.  The mayor supports the freight yard as he sees it part of a larger plan to make the city of Chicago a transportation hub. So my question is was this announcement planned to lessen the opposition to the proposed freight yard that is scheduled to come up for a vote? While I'm aware that Englewood needs a full service grocery store, I question the timing of this proposal. Recently,

I attended the Resident Association of Greater Englewood(R.A.G.E.) general meeting. They had contacted Jewel Foods about opening another grocery store and were informed that Jewel did not have an interest in reopening a full service store in Englewood ,but rather their limited offering store  "Save A Lot". The closest full service stores are either the Food For Less at 69th Ashland or Walmart Express at 47th Ashland. This is woofully inadequate as a community needs a full service grocery store for approximately every 10,000 residents. So we will see what happens this time around.

If the freight yard gets blocked will the corner of 63rd Halsted stay vacant?    

More items on Whole Foods Market coming to Englewood

Not to beat a dead horse with this exciting announcement but here are some more items worth sharing.

First Mayor Rahm Emanuel concluded a live press conference regarding Whole Foods in Englewood close to a half-hour ago. You can watch it here!

BTW, even the FB page of the Chicago Transit Authority got onto this act.

Also Curbed Chicago also talked about not only Whole Foods coming to 63rd/Halsted but also the other development plans for that intersection that was reported by the Sun-Times. Let me add that in discussing this store they mentioned that Detroit is the model to be used for the Englewood location.

Finally, WBEZ reported on this as well. They reported that this store will bring 100 jobs to the area and made sure to note that it will be next door to Kennedy-King College that has a culinary program. So surely those students will have access to jobs in the kitchen for this store.

UPDATE 1:56 PM This article was posted to our FB page this WBEZ article discusses the possiblity of Kennedy King's culinary students working at the new Whole Foods store:
Yesterday Whole Foods executive Michael Barshaw told WBEZ that the company wants to work with the Washburne Culinary Institute at nearby Kennedy King College.

“We hope that Whole Foods would offer educational classes on healthy eating, nutrition and cooking,” Barshaw said.
The article also mentions this organization Fresh Foods that runs converted CTA buses that sells fresh produce although unfortunately this organization is forced to shut down due to money. I believe Whole Foods has helped this organization with donations usually through customers' reusable bag discounts.

Also noted here is another organization Growing Home that operates two urban farms in Englewood. Here's hoping they will be an integral part of this project as well.

Finally the official press release from Whole Foods Market on the coming store posted to my Scribd account. You will see quotes from 16th Ward Alderman Joann Thompson and RAGE founder Aysha Butler in this release.

Recently Sen. Mark Kirk visited Englewood and stated this community has potential if all goes to plan I hope this will only be a start to realizing it!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Whole Foods Market is coming to 63rd/Halsted

Rendering of 63rd/Halsted Whole Foods store

In June I put my eye on the intersection of 63rd & Halsted in the Englewood neighborhood. During most of the 20th Century it was a major commercial area that was home to stores and theaters and then by the 1960s that area began a long decline. Even the urban renewal that diverted traffic around the area save for CTA buses didn't stop the decline.

In recent years there have been new construction in the area, by 2007 Kennedy-King College was constructed in this area and now the other part of this area is expected to be built upon. Whole Foods Market is coming to this area by 2016.

The Sun-Times wrote:
Whole Foods Market is set to open an 18,000-square-foot store at 63rd Street and Halsted by 2016.

And the chain’s co-CEO, Walter Robb, knows exactly what you’re thinking.

Why would a high-end grocer known for its pricier organic offerings come to an impoverished South Side community?

Because Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked, Robb said. And because it fits with the mission of the 33-year-old chain based in Austin, Texas.

“It’s been our purpose to bring healthier foods to the world,” he said. “We realize it’s probably a stretch in your readers’ minds. But so what? Stretch is good.”

The store will anchor a 13-acre complex for which the city has promised TIF funding through the Chicago Neighborhoods Now initiative. From that, developer DL3 will get funding for a buildout. The complex will include retail and other shops, a park and green space.

On Wednesday, officials will announce what community leaders and others are calling a major coup: luring the chain to one of 11 parcels of land that the mayor has promoted to grocery CEOs since June 2011 as ripe for new grocery store developments.
And of course this means jobs for the students at Kennedy-King College nearby. Also Hyde Park is supposed to get a Whole Foods in their community in the near future so there will be two stores located further south of Roosevelt where one is located in the South Loop.

Here's hoping all goes to plan and we'll see some more construction in the former Englewood "downtown" in the near future!

September 6th Ward Community Meetings

Here is a partial listing of upcoming 6th Ward Community Meetings

West Chesterfield Community Association
September 7, 2013
West Chesterfield Community Fieldhouse
9351 S Michigan  

 Park Manor Neighbors Community Council
September 9, 2013
6:30 pm
St. Columbanus(Church)
317 E. 71st  

Chatham Avalon Park Community Council
September 9 , 2013
6:30 to 8:30 pm
Urban Partnership Bank
7800 S State St.

Greater Chatham Alliance Community Organization
September 21, 2013
11:00 am to 1:30 pm
St. James Lutheran Church
8001 S. Michigan

   Rage logo
 Resident Association of Greater Englewood
September 17, 2013

 Please check with the respective organization to get updated meeting date or venue changes.

Joe Zekas R.I.P.

 Joe Zekas ran the real estate news website YoChicago . If you have been following that site and their social media channels i.e. YouTube o...