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What Do South Shore Neighbors Want For Their Community? A New Quality Of Life Plan Is The Roadmap



Block Club Chicago


SOUTH SHORE — Residents of the South Shore have been thinking for years about how to address disinvestment, health disparities and violence in the neighborhood while planning for an equitable future.

Now they have a clear agenda for the community in the form of the South Shore Quality of Life Plan, which sets out a vision for the neighborhood’s growth over the next five years and beyond.

The plan addresses eight “problem areas”: resident engagement, economic development, education, housing, community stewardship and beautification, health and wellness, arts, culture and entertainment, and public safety.

“South Shore needed a quality of life plan or a strategic plan. We’ve needed it for years; there were a few attempts, but we never really got a chance to follow it through,” said Val Free, senior shop steward for the Neighborhood Network Alliance.

“Now we have this opportunity and it’s because it came with resources to keep people at the table, to keep them engaged and to hold them accountable.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Apartment buildings are seen behind the South Shore Cultural Center on October 14, 2022.

The South Shore Compact oversaw the plan alongside the nonprofit LISC Chicago, which has helped create 29 such plans since 2000.

The pact includes the Neighborhood Network Alliance, which led resident feedback; the Chambre de la Rive-Sud, which brought together business leaders; and South Shore Works, which organized nonprofits and other neighborhood institutions.

“We had the three arms of a community around the table,” Free said.

The plan was released in mid-October after two years of work. If implemented successfully, it will promote wealth creation, protect the natural and physical environment, improve homeownership rates, support the creative community and much more in a turning point for the neighborhood, the leaders said.

“As a community, we are coming together and taking charge of the collective vision of what this new South Shore will look like,” said artist Dorian Sylvain, who co-chaired the arts, culture and entertainment committee. .

“We try not to walk on water. We try to come up with workable plans and ideas and keep our eyes on the prize,” said Sylvain.

To read the full Quality of Life Plan, click here.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A Metra arrives at Rive-Sud station on the South Shore on October 14, 2022.

What’s in the plan?

The Quality of Life Plan “centers residents’ hopes, dreams and aspirations in all aspects of life,” said Jaime Arteaga, program manager for LISC Chicago.

Strategies such as job and job training, improving neighborhood public schools and increasing homeownership for black residents can grow the community without displacing neighbors, Arteaga said.

Creating community investment vehicles, which would allow residents to share ownership of neighborhood projects, is a key aspect of the plan, Free said.

A citywide example is Benefit Chicago, which launched in 2016. Individuals can invest as little as $20 in the project, which lends and invests the money raised in businesses and nonprofits. lucrative with social impact.

“There are so many different models” of community investment, and residents meet with investment companies to determine what’s best for South Shore, Free said.

The plan also promotes worker co-ops, housing co-ops and local ownership of commercial properties to ensure residents benefit from neighborhood growth.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The Chicago skyline seen from South Shore Beach on December 6, 2021.

The South Shore plan takes an “asset-based” approach, Arteaga said. It focuses on what the community has to offer, rather than portraying “unhappiness and sadness” over what the community still needs, he said.

South Shore is grappling with issues ranging from the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 to community violence and a housing market that threatens to evict renters and owners of condos and co-ops.

But the community is also teeming with neighbors and institutions working to address these issues and more, and the plan promotes ways to support and grow them, leaders said.

“We wanted to be careful in how we framed the challenges the community was facing,” Arteaga said. “South Shore has a lot going for it – primarily the people who live, work and play in the community.”

Credit: Provided
Dorian Sylvain (in a white hat) poses with his two sons and the six young artists who took part in his summer grant. The fellows’ work is now on display in the vacant Urban Partnership Bank at 71st Street and Jeffery Boulevard in the South Shore.

Most of the plan’s focus areas include “core projects” or major development ideas that could improve residents’ quality of life in many ways.

Some, like the planned Inner City Entertainment complex on 71st Street and Jeffery Boulevard or the Thrive Exchange Invest South/West project, are already in development.

Others were drafted during the planning process, including a 30-story mixed-use skyscraper at 7162 S. Exchange Ave. The project would reuse the long-vacant land – which once housed the Food Exchange supermarket – for public transport. housing development while attracting new retail businesses, supporters said.

Another development idea is a non-profit incubator and art gallery, which would bolster South Shore’s already thriving creative community, Sylvain said.

“After high school, a lot of opportunities really aren’t available to young artists,” said Sylvain. “The Marwens of the world, the SkyARTs, [the Firehouse Community Arts Centers] – they touch the lives of a lot of people, and we need these things to be local.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The vacant lot at 72nd Street and Yates Boulevard, where residents have proposed a 30-story tower with housing and retail as part of the South Shore Quality of Life Plan.

Other project proposals include a cooperative-owned grocer, a youth sports and leadership complex, and an “intergenerational peace plaza.” None of the focal projects are guaranteed, but they are released to the public to gauge community support, Arteaga said.

“We don’t see this as an end point,” Arteaga said. “We hope people will see this and react strongly to it – ‘I like this idea and want to step up and support this’, or ‘That’s not the right idea, here are some ideas we have’.”

The “Healthy Lifestyle Center” in Auburn Gresham, the Woodlawn Park development, the Bronzeville Senior Apartments Mariano and Casa Maravilla in Pilsen are examples of completed projects anchored in their neighborhoods’ quality of life plans.

While the city’s We Will Chicago plan is similar in intent and format to quality of life plans, neighborhood-specific priorities aren’t reflected in the city’s roadmap, organizers and city planners said. .

South Shore neighbors will nonetheless ensure that city officials respect the needs and wants of the community as the We Will plan moves forward, Free said.

“The City will recognize the quality of life plan for the South Shore, because the organizations that piloted it came from the South Shore,” she said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Children splash in Lake Michigan on a hot Friday afternoon at Rainbow Park Beach in the South Shore on June 4, 2021.

Next steps

Keeping neighbors engaged with the plan — and with community organizing as a whole — will be key to implementing the plan, supporters said.

Publicizing the plan is a call to action, Arteaga said. Annual plans, which identify the next steps neighbors can take to achieve the plan’s goals, will be developed around each of the problem areas.

“The more people we have around the table, the more we can tilt in the direction of people’s desires,” said Sylvain. “Do we want to focus more on housing, focus more on renting spaces, focus on educating young artists in the principles of entrepreneurship? Probably, all of this is true.

Neighborhood leaders need to engage all residents in the months and years ahead, not just those who have already contributed to the quality of life plan, Free said.

Organizers need to build personal relationships with low-income residents, people with housing vouchers, neighbors without internet access and other harder-to-reach populations, Free said.

It’s a heavy burden, but it’s necessary to ensure equitable growth on the South Shore, she said.

“An organized community gets what it wants,” Free said. “Getting organized. That’s where the power is.

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