Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: Year in review

Happy new years everyone a few things happened and one big story we'll talk about at length here. Of course that will make this year end post unusual this year. 2017 has certainly been an interesting year - especially since this blog has been publishing for 10 years. Here's looking towards 2018 and the promise the new year offers.

Allow me to start with a story that's big for Chatham, the 6th Ward, or even the south side and it occurred in January 2017. The failure of the 52 year old Seaway National Bank that resulted in an FDIC orchestrated purchase by the State Bank of Texas and then in May accounts and branches were purchased by Self-Help Federal Credit Union. During the course of this blog's 10 years - which we celebrated in 2017 - we sought to bring attention to one of the largest Black-owned banks in the nation. Sadly thanks to a number of errors by ownership and management at Seaway Bancshares the bank itself is no longer Black-owned.

Of course under new ownership the brand survives with Self-Help. This blog has covered some bank failures in the past especially with the late great Shorebank - which had a political angle to it thanks to Obama being in the White House when it failed. We've also covered the failure of Highland Community Bank and also Covenant Bank on the west side which has been outside of the basic scope of this blog however they were Black-owned banks that had failed during the course of this decade.
To start what happened with Seaway there was an FDIC report released on this subject read that and you be the judge. As a layperson who followed any developments out of Seaway in the news a bank fails when it fails to recapitalize. Seaway purchased two failed banks earlier in the 2010s. Then the banks longtime chairman passed away in 2013 and was succeeded by his widow who was chairwoman until the bank failed in 2017. By the time the bank failed Seaway had no President/CEO it was quite a mess.

The brand survives under non-Black ownership, however it died a very painful death somewhat needlessly - which caught the attention of Crain's Greg Hinz even. Seaway was a bank founded during the Civil Rights era when the major banks had no desire to lend minorities money for a mortgage or their businesses. In thinking about what happened and it's history, the failure of Seaway is a shame.

With that in mind onto some of the other things that occurred in 2017.

The renovations talked about for a number of years for Studio Movie Grill Chatham 14 is finally completed and a month long grand-opening commenced during March 2017. SMG is essentially a dine-in theater with table service in the theater in addition to a bar right in the lobby. It's a needed upgrade and certainly our neighborhood movie house has come a long way from the drama that occurred over 5 years ago with an eviction of ICE Theaters and a change of ownership from ICE to Michael Silver and then SMG.

A post shared by The Sixth Ward (@thesixthward) on

Now that we mention ICE Theaters, Alisa Starks who once owned the Chatham was back in the news with her own proposal for a theater in South Shore near 71st & Jeffrey. Her plan is to take down the former HQ of ShoreBank and the long shuttered Jeffrey Theater next door and build a multi-use building that contains a movie theater and restaurant. Her plans for that corner is at least two years old and with her current proposal in mind, this project may well further develop. Time will tell since she hopes to open this complex in 2018.

Last year Whole Foods Market opened their long awaited store in Englewood at 63rd/Halsted and construction has started on their soon to come distribution center in Pullman. This past summer Whole Foods Market has been purchased by Amazon. As a result Whole Foods stores around the country saw some prices slashed as it was Amazon's stated intention to cut prices.

I forgot to add that a streak for the south side continues for the Curbed Cup. Every year Curbed Chicago conducts a poll to determine the neighborhood of the year. For 2015 that neighborhood had been Pullman in 2016 that neighborhood is Woodlawn. Woodlawn faces off against South Loop in the Curbed Cup 2017.

Recently the Chicago Tribune had a look at the issue of underutilized Chicago Public High Schools. 17 of the high schools that includes Harlan Community Academy which suffered a drastic drop to 386 students during the current school year. Now there's concern that we may have another round of school closings. This time it may include underutilized and under-enrolled high schools

And we must add that as per construction of a new high school in Englewood four high schools in Englewood - Team Englewood, Robeson, Hope, and Harper - are slated to be closed at the end of the year and this new high school is slated to open for freshman students in 2019. Also all four of those schools are among those underutilized schools.
The post regarding Walgreen's on 95th & King Drive closing down over the summer was heavily shared. There was a community event hosted by state Rep. Elgie Sims on this particular issue. Currently the former Walgreen's is zoned residential as there are attempts to come up with a plan for this now vacant retail space.

I also want to include the new effort we chronicled on this blog to restore service on the East 63rd branch of the CTA Green Line. There was an online petition with consideration of the coming Obama Presidential Library to Woodlawn. Here's hoping the people behind that attempt at service restoration will be successful at some point in the future.

Are there any stories we missed from 2017? What are you looking for in 2018?

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