WBEZ | vacant lots http://www.wbez.org/tags/vacant-lots Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Protections for renters in foreclosed buildings take effect http://www.wbez.org/news/protections-renters-foreclosed-buildings-take-effect-108756 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/signs.jpg" style="height: 284px; width: 350px; float: left;" title="Albany Park Neighborhood Council members gathered Tuesday to publicize the Keep Chicago Renting ordinance, passed in June by the Chicago City Council. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />Tenant advocates cheered Tuesday as new Chicago protections for renters in foreclosed buildings took effect. Their challenge now, they say, is spreading the word about the ordinance.<br /><br />&ldquo;The banks will be fighting it,&rdquo; said Diane Limas of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, a group that worked for years to pass the measure. &ldquo;They will try to figure out every way to throw families out in the streets. But the best way to fight back against the banks is to make sure every renter knows their rights.&rdquo;<br /><br />The ordinance, known as Keep Chicago Renting, won City Council approval in June. It requires the foreclosing entity to provide a building&rsquo;s tenants with a rent-controlled lease until selling the property &mdash; or pay them a &ldquo;relocation assistance&rdquo; fee of $10,600 per unit. The goal is to keep renters in their homes and keep the buildings from standing vacant and attracting vandals, squatters and thieves.<br /><br />Last year there were 4,346 foreclosures on Chicago apartment buildings encompassing 11,932 units, according to the Lawyers&rsquo; Committee for Better Housing, which pushed for the ordinance. The committee says half of those foreclosures were filed by five companies: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and Deutsche Bank. Banks filed about 11 percent of Chicago evictions in the last half of 2012, the committee adds.<br /><br />Groups representing bankers, realtors and landlords say the ordinance will backfire. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s going to be a disincentive for investment in multi-units from a wide range of financing sources,&rdquo; said Brian Bernardoni, senior director of government affairs and public policy of the Illinois Association of Realtors. &ldquo;Any time you have a lack of investment, there&rsquo;s going to be a lack of rehab, a lack of sustainable affordable housing and preservation of affordable housing units.&rdquo;<br /><br />Tenant advocates point out that the measure applies only to the first owner after the foreclosure auction. From there, any party that buys the building is free to evict the tenants without the relocation fee.<br /><br />As aldermen and Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration worked on the measure this spring, the Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association warned that the rent cap would violate the Illinois constitution. Questioned Tuesday, neither the mortgage bankers group nor the Illinois Bankers Association answered whether they were planning a court challenge.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 24 Sep 2013 17:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/protections-renters-foreclosed-buildings-take-effect-108756 A slow-mo glimpse of urban sprawl in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/slow-mo-glimpse-urban-sprawl-chicago-108126 <p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="750" scrolling="no" src="http://a.tiles.mapbox.com/v3/reporterel.ChicagoBuilt.html#12/41.8265/-87.6561" width="620"></iframe></p><p><strong><a href="http://a.tiles.mapbox.com/v3/reporterel.ChicagoBuilt.html#13/41.8779/-87.6798" target="_blank"><span style="color:#ff0000;">(View fullscreen map here.)</span></a></strong></p><p>By the time your eyes hit this sentence, you&#39;ve likely encountered the spray of neon colors adorning a black map of Chicago. This is no exercise in design for design&#39;s sake. Instead, it&#39;s a WBEZ data play on this&nbsp;<a href="http://labratrevenge.com/pdx/#14/45.5211/-122.6490">amazing visualization of &nbsp;the city of Portland</a>.&nbsp;It got our juices flowing enough that we put together several views of Chicago data for you to get a look at.</p><p>But other than some serious eye-candy, what&#39;s going on here?&nbsp;We&#39;re basically providing a slow-mo glimpse of urban sprawl: how Chicago grew over almost two hundred years, and where it&#39;s currently growing. (If the concept sounds familiar, it&#39;s possibly because we used the same technology utilized by Open City apps to visualize buildings, zoning and demolitions in the Chicago area in a project dubbed <a href="http://edifice.opencityapps.org/">Edifice</a>.)</p><p>For the map above, we took data from the <a href="http://data.cityofchicago.org">City of Chicago&#39;s data portal</a>&nbsp;(presumably originating with the Department of Buildings) and combined it with a wild color scheme (thanks again, Portland!). The color-coded display shows where buildings were constructed in Chicago within certain time periods, with white being the most recent. The data appear to be valid between 1850-2012, though you may notice a few notable buildings are missing (e.g., Wrigley Field). Interestingly enough, Soldier Field appears white, meaning the data suggest it&#39;s a recent structure. The entry likely accounts for the field&#39;s new spaceship-like modifications made in 2003.</p><p>Below, though, we break out frames to show you before-and-after snapshots during important historical milestones. We&#39;ve by added light blue lines to display boundaries of Chicago <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/319.html">community areas</a> so you can keep your bearings from one era to the next. &nbsp;</p><p><strong>After the Great Fire</strong></p><p>This shows the boom in construction during the 1870s and &#39;80s. This occured after the Great Chicago Fire.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/postfire.jpg" title="" /></div><p><strong>1920s</strong></p><p>There were other booms, especially in the roaring 20s. The South Side, with its meat-packing plants, factories and railyards, made up the industrial backbone of the city:</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1920s.jpg" title="" /></div><p><strong>The Great Depression</strong></p><p>There were major declines during the 1930s. As you can see here ... not much happening. The Great Depression probably had something to do with that.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GreatDepression.jpg" title="" /></div><p><strong>Post-WWII</strong></p><p>In the 1950s Chicago expanded westward, especially in Jefferson Park, Norwood Park, West Ridge Ashburn, Garfield Ridge and West Lawn.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1950swestbound.jpg" title="" /></div><p><strong>Cooler by the lake in the &#39;60s</strong></p><p>See the line of magenta stretching along the northeast portion of the city? That&#39;s the North Side lakefront&#39;s high-rise boom, which happened in the 1960s. The highrises and other buildings grew in Edgewater, Uptown, the Near North Side and Lakeview. The expansion along the lake continued well into the &#39;70s, with scarce development happening elsewhere in the city. The 1980s began to the rise of Chicago&#39;s downtown structures, with moderate growth appearing in Lincoln Park.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/coolerbythelakeinthe60s.jpg" title="" /></div><p><strong>Chicago under Daley the 2nd</strong></p><p>The section shows the period between the 1990s and 2012, which saw the largest expansion of new structures since the 1950s.</p><p>West Town, Lakeview, Lincoln Park and the Near North Side exploded with growth in the &#39;90s, during the reign of Mayor Richard M. Daley. If you focus on the neighborhoods of Wicker Park, Bucktown and Lakeview, you&#39;ll recognize blocks that were once dominated by the city&#39;s storied A-frame multi-family houses, but were crowded out or entirely displaced by popular cinderblock condos and 3-flats.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/daleyschicago.jpg" title="" /></div><p><strong>The boom before the recession</strong></p><p>The early 2000s saw the expansion of the city&#39;s South and West Loop, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/west-loop-boom-108122">a story covered by WBEZ data intern Simran Khosla</a>.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/theboomberforeression.jpg" title="" /></div><p><strong>The decline of the South Side</strong></p><p>The map also shows that the South Side hasn&#39;t experienced the same growth the North Side has the past 20 years.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/northvssouth.jpg" title="" /></div><p>Further, and possibly more depressing, is that the amount of abandoned buildings (above) that were demolished and turned into vacant lots are much more apparent on a map, displaying as jagged teeth-like structures when compared to other North Side neighborhoods.</p><p>See anything above that should spark a conversation? Please hit us up in the comment section below.</p><p><em>Elliott Ramos is a data reporter and Web producer for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://www.twitter.com/ChicagoEl">@ChicagoEl</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 22 Jul 2013 16:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/slow-mo-glimpse-urban-sprawl-chicago-108126 Residents, city tackle problems around vacant homes and lots http://www.wbez.org/news/residents-city-tackle-problems-around-vacant-homes-and-lots-107825 <p><p>In 2012, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a plan to curb criminal activity in and around vacant buildings by demolishing them. Crime is dropping, but some residents think it&rsquo;s at the expense of their property value. They worry it&rsquo;s making it harder for the housing market to recover in their communities.</p><p>And there&rsquo;s not one easy solution.</p><p>On a quiet Sunday morning in Englewood, a boarded up window was decorated with streamers, advertising an open house. But the door was locked and no one was around to show it.</p><p>Across the street, Ruthie Carpenter was unloading some groceries. She looked at the boarded up houses on her block.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know what they plan on doing for these lots, but it make the neighborhood look really, really bad,&rdquo; she said.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202013-06-24%20at%202.44.00%20PM.png" style="height: 202px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Englewood resident Ruthie Carpenter and her son Carl. She said vacant houses attract break-ins and drug use, something she’s seen on her block. (WBEZ/Tricia Bobeda)" />A house down the street was leveled just a few months ago under the city&rsquo;s safety initiative to demolish vacant properties that attract criminal activity.</p><p>The strategy initially targets the 3rd, 7th, 8th, 10th and 11th police districts--areas on the South and West Sides.</p><p>&ldquo;When you tear down a building, you gotta rebuild a building, because if not, the homeowner property really goes down,&rdquo; Carpenter said. &ldquo;I wouldn&rsquo;t want to move into a neighborhood with all these vacant lots and boarded up buildings.&rdquo;</p><p>She said the vacant houses attract break-ins and drug use, something she&rsquo;s seen on her block.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s typical in Carpenter&rsquo;s neighborhood to see rows of abandoned houses and vacant lots and there similar views in parts of the West Side.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s where Shavonta Washington lives.<br /><br />&ldquo;I was just recently living at a foreclosed home where I was renting there. But then somehow, the whole building went under foreclosure without me knowing, but I was still paying rent. At the end of the day, I still had to leave my house and didn&rsquo;t know where to go,&rdquo; she said.<br /><br />It burned her to see long abandoned homes or vacant lots where a building once stood when she&rsquo;s been struggling to rent a single room for her and her 4-year-old son.<br /><br />&ldquo;Look at these empty lots. Y&rsquo;all could build this up and put them poor people in there and have them somewhere to go. Because we know other people are laying down in their beds while we have to struggle and find somewhere for us, our child to sleep,&rdquo; she said.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202013-06-24%20at%203.10.34%20PM.png" style="float: left; height: 204px; width: 300px;" title="Construction equipment remains on the site of a home demolished by the city. (WBEZ/Tricia Bobeda)" />Under the city&rsquo;s safety initiative, about 300 buildings have been demolished because of high crime.<br /><br />According to the city&rsquo;s buildings department, an unstable structure, a badly damaged roof or a house stripped of its wiring could be put it on the radar for demolition.</p><p>It costs between $18,000 to $24,000 to level one house, and the entire process can take longer than a year. So demolition is used as a last resort.<br /><br />Geoff Smith with the DePaul Institute of Housing Studies said there&rsquo;s a delicate balance to strike in taking down a house in a blighted area.<br /><br />&ldquo;For the most troubled buildings, where there really is no redevelopment opportunities available and that building is sort of beyond a reasonable rehab within a certain cost for that neighborhood, demolition is an option both to help stabilize the neighborhood housing market to help improve safety,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Smith said there&rsquo;s very little demand in these neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, the median sale price for a home in Englewood is $45,500. The city&rsquo;s overall median sale price is $225,000.<br /><br />Though the price index for these areas have hit a bottom, Smith said there&rsquo;s a small glimmer of hope with the market starting to slowly recover.<br /><br />&ldquo;That is a slight positive indicator, but it really has to be something we see over an extended period of time to have confidence that this is a real trend and not just a blip in prices that&rsquo;s being created by property flippers,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />The city&rsquo;s Department of Housing and Economic Development said it has more than 15,000 vacant lots in stock.</p><p>It wants to get rid of these, but it&rsquo;s not so easy.</p><p>It&rsquo;s hard to get someone to buy property in a depressed area, no matter how low the price is. Plus, there are more lots beyond the city&rsquo;s stock. Those might still belong to the original owner.<br /><br />In East Garfield Park, Luly Gutierrez was tending a garden next to her building.</p><p>&ldquo;There was plenty of stolen cars in the back, most of the time garbage and it was not useful for anything,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Four years ago, she and her neighbor got fed up with the mess they were living next to. They got the go ahead from their alderman to turn it into a community garden. Gutierrez said people have stopped dumping their trash there.</p><p>&ldquo;People respect the garden. I don&rsquo;t want to fence anything here. People can go back and forth. If you put a fence, it&rsquo;s like &lsquo;don&rsquo;t go there.&rsquo; It&rsquo;s not, it&rsquo;s a community garden and people can go pass. And there are some people getting some tomatoes and that&rsquo;s fine. It&rsquo;s for everybody,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>She said her block has been looking better. There are some newer rehabs on the block, nicely finished brick condos. But there&rsquo;s still room for improvement. Including a huge vacant lot Gutierrez points out across the street. She said there are more lots than hands to take care of a garden.<br /><br />Geoff Smith with Depaul said any redevelopment or stabilization strategy needs to be planned with a long term view.</p><p>&ldquo;I think a demolition isn&rsquo;t necessarily going to have an immediate positive impact on the surrounding property values. But I think if its demolition takes place as part of a broader strategy to redevelop that area, then I think in the long term, that makes sense,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Smith said it&rsquo;s difficult to picture a community garden among many vacant lots or one rehab on a block of mostly abandoned houses capable of reversing a steep, downward trend.<br /><br />But it&rsquo;s still a small step in a much larger recovery effort.<br /><br />&ldquo;When you look at what attracts future investment or what attracts investment is amenities. And that&rsquo;s community in some cases. And I think it&rsquo;s community that might make a renter in a neighborhood choose to buy in that neighborhood,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Smith said, overall, prevention is the best way to keep neighborhoods stabilized. That means keeping properties occupied.</p><p>For now, Gutierrez said there are people like her trying to take care of what&rsquo;s around them.</p><p>&ldquo;There are so many empty lots in East Garfield Park and they&rsquo;re sitting there with nothing. People want to do something and they are doing it,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The Chicago City Council recently passed an ordinance that prevents banks from evicting paying renters from foreclosed buildings. And Cook County is at the beginning stages of establishing its land bank, a strategy to cut down the current stock of vacant properties.</p><p><em>Susie An is WBEZ&rsquo;s business reporter. Follow her @<a href="http://twitter.com/soosieon" target="_blank">soosieon</a>.</em></p><h2><strong>Map of addresses where buildings were demolished as part of the city&#39;s effort to reduce criminal activity.</strong></h2><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="750" scrolling="no" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col1+from+1qdVIzfF1PtiaCoRwUL7J4A5MUzBVhA4etg2RqNA&amp;viz=MAP&amp;h=false&amp;lat=41.80674244761583&amp;lng=-87.64882061337391&amp;t=1&amp;z=11&amp;l=col1&amp;y=2&amp;tmplt=2" width="620"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 24 Jun 2013 14:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/residents-city-tackle-problems-around-vacant-homes-and-lots-107825 Mural restoration heartens Puerto Ricans http://www.wbez.org/story/mural-restoration-heartens-puerto-ricans-92248 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-21/mural-2_WBEZ_Chip-Mitchell.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>One of the country’s oldest outdoor murals covers a storefront on Chicago’s Northwest Side. People who care about the 40-year-old painting are finishing a facelift. The mural restoration is doing more than brightening up a gritty stretch of North Avenue. It’s got Puerto Ricans in the Humboldt Park neighborhood talking about their heritage.</p><p>MITCHELL: A celebration of the restoration included music with roots in Puerto Rican slave plantations.&nbsp;José López of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center recalled the artists who painted the mural in 1971.</p><p>LOPEZ: Young Puerto Ricans from the street — people who were marginalized — decided to give us a legacy for our historical memory.</p><p>MITCHELL: The mural covers the side of 2423 W. North Ave. and includes portraits of nine Puerto Ricans who struggled for abolition and the island’s independence from Spain and, later, the United States. Three of them are on crosses. Those three all served long U.S. prison terms in the mid-20th century. The artists, led by Mario Galán, named the mural “La Crucifixión de Don Pedro Albizu Campos” after a Puerto Rican Nationalist Party founder. They put him on the biggest cross. López said the mural has special meaning in a part of Chicago where many Puerto Ricans can no longer afford to live.</p><p>LOPEZ: Gentrification means, many times, the writing away of people’s history.</p><p>MITCHELL: Restoring the mural took a decade. Neighborhood leader Eduardo Arocho attributes that to a developer who owned a vacant lot in front of the work.</p><p>AROCHO: His plans were to develop a three-story condo unit. We tried negotiating with him for several months, even at one point offering him several lots in exchange. And he refused and he just started to build the wall, covering the mural intentionally. And so that’s when we grabbed our picket signs and started to protest.</p><p>MITCHELL: The city finally won control of the lot and helped turn it into a small park to keep the mural visible.</p><p>PITMAN WEBER: It’s remarkable that this mural has survived.</p><p>MITCHELL: John Pitman Weber is a professor at Elmhurst College in DuPage County. He has studied and created public art for more than four decades. And he provided consulting for this mural’s restoration, carried out by Humboldt Park artist John Vergara.</p><p>PITMAN WEBER: Its content is unique, not only in Chicago but nationally.</p><p>MITCHELL: And aesthetics? Pitman Weber calls the mural formal and stark.</p><p>PITMAN WEBER: Kind of Byzantine, in a way, quasi-naïve -- executed by some very, very young artists. The style possibly even adds clarity.</p><p>MITCHELL: Not all Puerto Ricans appreciate the artwork or the idea of the island breaking from the U.S. But when I ask the ones who walk by, most have strong attachments to the mural.</p><p>WOMAN 1: My mom used to go to St. Aloysius. My parents did and so...</p><p>MITCHELL: That’s a church right here.</p><p>WOMAN 1: It’s a church down the street. I used to go there when I was a little girl. And my mom would drive us to church and that’s how I knew we were getting close is when I’d see the mural almost every Sunday.</p><p>MAN 1: I see Don Pedro on the cross being crucified for what he believed in. Crucified the same way as Jesus!</p><p>WOMAN 2: I used to get up every morning and look at this mural.</p><p>MAN 2: I went to prison. I was 17 years old and I went to prison for 20 years. And, during those 20 years, when I used to think about home and I used to think about Humboldt Park, it was this mural that I used to think about.</p><p>MITCHELL: Why is that?</p><p>MAN 2: I remember when I was first looking at it, I think I was maybe 9 or 10 when I first noticed it, I didn’t know anything about Puerto Rican history. To me it was just a painting that was up there. I didn’t understand who was up there, what it was about. But when I went to prison I learned about my culture, I learned about who I was. I even got this guy on my arm. Two of these guys are on my arm.</p><p>MITCHELL: Tattoos.</p><p>MAN 2: Yeah, Pedro Albizu Campos on my right arm and I got Ramón Emeterio Betances on my left arm. And I think I can attribute that to this mural, man.</p><p>MITCHELL: The mural restoration will be complete with the addition of calligraphy this fall.</p></p> Wed, 21 Sep 2011 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/mural-restoration-heartens-puerto-ricans-92248 Winning a referendum is no silver bullet http://www.wbez.org/story/200-cut-rate-liquors/winning-referendum-no-silver-bullet <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-March/2011-03-13/REFERENDUM_Rea_Woods.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The idea behind a referendum is to give voters a direct voice in making their community better. These ballot questions can cover anything from stem-cell research to the fate of an empty lot. They may be binding or just advisory. Last month, referenda were on ballots in nine Chicago precincts. But it&rsquo;s not clear the voters will get what they had in mind &mdash; even if they were on the winning side. We&rsquo;ll hear now from WBEZ reporters in three parts of the city. We start with Chip Mitchell at our West Side bureau.<br /><br />MITCHELL: Kurt Gippert lives near a building here in Humboldt Park that seemed like a magnet.<br /><br />GIPPERT: Gang banging, loitering, drug sales, some prostitution, tons of urinating.<br /><br />MITCHELL: It was a liquor store.<br /><br />GIPPERT: In 2010, we had at least nine people shot in front of that store.<br /><br />MITCHELL: Under city pressure, the store closed last fall. Gippert and his neighbors wanted it gone for good, so they turned to a 77-year-old Illinois law that lets voters ban selling alcohol in their precinct.<br /><br />GIPPERT: It&rsquo;s the only power we had &mdash; the only surefire, effective thing that was going to last longer than six months or a year.<br /><br />MITCHELL: They petitioned to put the referendum on last month&rsquo;s ballot. And voters passed it about 4-to-1. Starting next week, the precinct will be dry. There&rsquo;s just one problem.<br /><br />SOUND: Car alarm.<br /><br />MITCHELL (on the scene): The place with the gang bangers in front wasn&rsquo;t the precinct&rsquo;s only store selling alcohol. I&rsquo;m outside a CVS a few blocks west. The clerks inside tell me booze accounts for about half their sales. But there&rsquo;s also a stream of customers who rely on this CVS for everything from prescription drugs to shampoo and milk. Without its liquor sales here, some of these folks worry CVS might close this store.<br /><br />CUSTOMER 1: Some of my family members get their prescriptions filled here. And it&rsquo;s really convenient that they can walk here instead of worrying about getting a ride or catching the bus.<br /><br />MITCHELL (on the scene): Do they have cars?<br /><br />CUSTOMER 1: No.<br /><br />CUSTOMER 2: I got three kids, so we need milk. If you get something for them from the corner store, it&rsquo;ll probably be old.<br /><br />CUSTOMER 3: Everybody around here, I guess, is poor. So they need to get to a place that most of them can walk to. Bus fare is high. Cab fare is high. So, yeah, it would hurt them.<br /><br />MITCHELL: CVS isn&rsquo;t answering whether it&rsquo;ll keep the store open once it quits selling alcohol. Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) supported the referendum. But he admits there&rsquo;s collateral damage.<br /><br />MALDONADO: We don&rsquo;t have a lot of retail in the area. And we have never heard complaints about CVS. However, if they depend on liquor to remain viable, then they should not be open.<br /><br />MITCHELL: I ask Maldonado about other precincts in his ward.<br /><br />MITCHELL (on the scene): Businesses that are selling alcohol and doing so responsibly, without a lot of problems out in front, do they have anything to worry about?<br /><br />MALDONADO: No, they don&rsquo;t have to worry as long as they are conscious about their own responsibility [to be] a good business neighbor.<br /><br />MITCHELL: And as long as residents don&rsquo;t vote the precinct dry. Reporting from Chicago&rsquo;s West Side, I&rsquo;m Chip Mitchell.<br /><br />MOORE: And I&rsquo;m Natalie Moore at our Side South bureau. The situation was different in a 3rd Ward precinct along East 47th Street. Voters didn&rsquo;t take aim at all liquor. They had specific targets: Night Train, Wild Irish Rose, Thunderbird &mdash; cheap, fortified wines that some residents say attracted low-end elements to the neighborhood. The referendum was nonbinding, nothing more than an opinion poll. Still, the majority voted to ban fortified wines at two stores. No more malt liquor either. But one of the stores took 22-ounce malt liquor off the shelves in July.<br /><br />MICHELIS: Took a hit on sales, between $20,000-$25,000 a month, but I gained it from the wines I put in the store.<br /><br />MOORE: Steve Michelis owns a store called 200 Cut Rate Liquors. Michelis says voters got what they wanted. He says the loitering and begging in front of his place stopped last year. Still, he didn&rsquo;t mind last month&rsquo;s referendum.<br /><br />MICHELIS: I don&rsquo;t care. I don&rsquo;t have anything to hide.<br /><br />MOORE: Maybe another reason Michelis didn&rsquo;t mind so much was because he was already getting other pressure &mdash; from Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd).<br /><br />DOWELL: You have people who stand outside, they drink it, they throw the can down, they beg for money or they go back in and get some money from somewhere and go back and buy another can.<br /><br />MOORE: Residents targeted Aristo Food and Liquor on the ballot, too. While residents gathered signatures for the nonbinding referendum, Dowell had her own approach. She&rsquo;s been working on getting the owners to sign agreements to stop selling the cheap liquor. She&rsquo;ll then attach them to their liquor licenses with the city. That would make them binding. The owner of Aristo says he plans to comply with Dowell. But the alderman says she&rsquo;s still waiting to hear back from him. Reporting from the city&rsquo;s South Side, I&rsquo;m Natalie Moore.<br /><br />YOUSEF: And I&rsquo;m Odette Yousef. Here on the North Side, one alderman and some voters are not on the same page. And, the issue isn&rsquo;t liquor. It&rsquo;s land use.<br /><br />GLAZIER: There&rsquo;s going to be three large driveways next to each other.<br /><br />YOUSEF: This is Josh Glazier.<br /><br />GLAZIER: Two for trucks coming in and out of the project, and one for several hundred cars that are going to remain inside the building.<br /><br />YOUSEF: Glazier lives behind this unused hospital garage in Lincoln Park. He&rsquo;s not happy about a developer&rsquo;s plan to turn it into a grocery store.<br /><br />GLAZIER: The community really objects to the grocer and the trucks.<br /><br />YOUSEF: Glazier says Ald. Vi Daley (43rd) has heard him out. He and others recall her saying she&rsquo;d stay neutral until the community reached a consensus on the project. But in spite of overwhelming opposition at public meetings. . .<br /><br />GLAZIER: We&rsquo;ve been hearing for quite some time that the alderman had this secret list, with the names of all the project&rsquo;s supporters and opponents. And increasingly she&rsquo;s been telling us the count was very close. And we didn&rsquo;t feel like a secret list should be the basis for any decision on the project.<br /><br />YOUSEF: So Glazier and fellow opponents gathered signatures to put the issue on their precinct&rsquo;s February ballot.<br /><br />YOUSEF (on the scene): So you knew going into this that this would not be a binding result?<br /><br />GLAZIER: Of course it was not going to be a binding result, but it was going to create some transparency.<br /><br />YOUSEF: And that&rsquo;s what Glazier says he got. Most voters opposed the project at the polls. So he was stunned to hear Ald. Daley&rsquo;s official position just days later. In a statement, she wrote, &ldquo;I will not delay this project any longer and I will vote to approve this project at City Council.&rdquo; Daley said only a narrow majority of voters opposed the development. She said she heard from many ward residents who do want it. They live outside the precinct that voted on it. I asked Prof. Christopher Berry of the University of Chicago if that was a legitimate reason to discount the referendum results:<br /><br />BERRY: Well, it&rsquo;s a legitimate tack to take, but the only way we would really know the answer is to have some sort of scientific public opinion poll that was done, that included everyone in the affected geography.<br /><br />YOUSEF: Berry says referenda are anything but scientific. They&rsquo;re often put together by self-selected groups on one side of an issue. And, usually, only a small fraction of voters come out to decide it. Berry says with referenda, the real story often isn&rsquo;t about how the vote came down. It&rsquo;s that an issue came down to a vote at all.<br /><br />BERRY: When you see a referendum, which means citizens have to be directly making this policy, it suggests some sort of failure or breakdown in the process between the citizens and their representatives.<br /><br />YOUSEF: Berry says those breakdowns are rare because politicians usually want to get reelected. But, in Lincoln Park, that&rsquo;s not the case. Ald. Daley retires in May. On Chicago&rsquo;s North Side, I&rsquo;m Odette Yousef, WBEZ.</p></p> Mon, 14 Mar 2011 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/200-cut-rate-liquors/winning-referendum-no-silver-bullet Dear Chicago: Fill empty lots http://www.wbez.org/story/cdata/dear-chicago-fill-empty-lots <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Darmika_0436.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When 23-year-old Darmika Ford looks out her home window, she imagines a community garden brimming with flowers, produce and community cooperation, but what she actually sees is nothing like that vision. Instead, she sees a vacant lot. Ford estimates there are at least 40 such lots in her West Garfield Park neighborhood, but her community is not alone; the City of Chicago website lists over 13,000 city-owned vacant land properties for sale. Ford has created sketches of how some of these places could be transformed into community gardens.</p></p> Mon, 17 Jan 2011 11:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/cdata/dear-chicago-fill-empty-lots Dear Chicago: Fill empty lots http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-architecture-foundation/dear-chicago-fill-empty-lots <p><br> <div id="PictoBrowser120123142208">&nbsp;</div><script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser/swfobject.js"></script><script type="text/javascript"> var so = new SWFObject("http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser.swf", "PictoBrowser", "500", "530", "8", "#EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("source", "sets"); so.addVariable("names", "Dear Chicago: From empty space to space where we come together"); so.addVariable("userName", "Chicagopublicmedia"); so.addVariable("userId", "33876038@N00"); so.addVariable("ids", "72157628999236987"); so.addVariable("titles", "off"); so.addVariable("displayNotes", "always"); so.addVariable("thumbAutoHide", "off"); so.addVariable("imageSize", "medium"); so.addVariable("vAlign", "top"); so.addVariable("vertOffset", "0"); so.addVariable("colorHexVar", "EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("initialScale", "off"); so.addVariable("bgAlpha", "68"); so.write("PictoBrowser120123142208"); </script><div>When 23-year-old Darmika Ford looks out her home window, she imagines a community garden brimming with flowers, produce and community cooperation, but what she actually sees is nothing like that vision. Instead, she sees a vacant lot. Ford estimates there are at least 40 such lots in her West Garfield Park neighborhood, but her community is not alone; the City of Chicago website lists over 13,000 city-owned vacant land properties for sale. Ford has created sketches of how some of these places could be transformed into community gardens.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A graduate of Illinois State University, Ford was born and raised in Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood and lives there today. She works for an organization called Public Allies, an apprenticeship program that sends young adults to work as community service leaders at non profit institutions. Public Allies placed Ford at the Gary Comer Youth Center, which is well known for its striking community rooftop garden. That garden sets a high standard that Ford admires and hopes to see repeated with Chicago’s vacant lots.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Dear Chicago,</em></div><div><em>I would like the new mayor to address the excessive vacancies in overlooked communities in the City of Chicago.This issue has an effect on what comes into this community and what goes out of it. If the lots are not being kept, it makes it appear as if the community is not being kept. I believe that turning these vacant lots over to the communities would increase community pride and cooperation, and you would see more positives because things are getting done. </em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>For example, one day I was in a car, and we were riding past Madison and Pulaski. I saw residents creating their own Christmas tree inside a vacant lot with little decorations. It was so cute! They had a table with bags and it looked like they had hot chocolate. And that just represents the people that live here, because it’s some great people that live here. And I said: “See? We make small use of what we got.”</em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>Residents could use these vacant lots as outlets for things like neighborhood artwork, murals, decorative colorful benches, and outdoor sculptures. These types of activities would be valuable in uplifting neighborhoods’ cultural existence and increasing the growth and service of these neighborhoods.</em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>Residents could use these lots for creating community-driven gardens that plant seeds of community pride and demonstrate what each of these communities represents.</em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>I’ve been doing community gardening since 2009, when I finished college. And what I remember about that experience is that it taught the residents responsibility and accountability. I saw a change in their attitude towards working together. </em></div><div><em>&nbsp;</em></div><div><em>I believe that communities as a whole will change. A lot of people will take more initiative in trying to work together to keep their neighborhoods clean and healthy. Community gardens don’t always have to be a place for producing food. They could just be community beautification spaces, where people can go to read and relax and not have to go outside their community. Everyone that was employed at the community gardens I have worked at were from that particular community. There are people in these areas that love their communities and are willing to improve it. </em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Dear Chicago</em> is a project of WBEZ’s Partnership Program. Darmika Ford was nominated for the series by <a href="http://caf.architecture.org/">Chicago Architecture Foundation</a>.</div></p> Fri, 14 Jan 2011 18:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-architecture-foundation/dear-chicago-fill-empty-lots When someone else’s art lands in your neighborhood http://www.wbez.org/story/abductions/when-someone-else%E2%80%99s-art-lands-your-neighborhood <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Sculpture2.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><b>Ten sculptors have put up outdoor pieces in Chicago&rsquo;s East Garfield Park neighborhood. The installation&rsquo;s supposed to stay up for a year. The group says the purpose is to expose people to art that they might not be able to see otherwise. But, then again, residents never asked for the opportunity. So what happens when someone else&rsquo;s art lands in your neighborhood? We report from our West Side bureau.</b><br /><br />Before looking into how the 10 pieces are going over in East Garfield Park, I ask Chicago sculptor Terrence Karpowicz to show them to me. He led the installation.<br /><br />MITCHELL: To me it looks like a huge, three-fingered claw. What is this?<br />KARPOWICZ: This is a sculpture by Fisher Stoltz titled &ldquo;Moonbench.&rdquo; I see it as a rendezvous point for the local community. They can actually come and sit down and converse.<br />MITCHELL: Yeah, there&rsquo;s a marble bench here.<br />KARPOWICZ: Actually it&rsquo;s granite. There is an electrical element that lights up at night so that the white marble sphere glows. Come on and sit down.<br />MITCHELL: Yeah, now that we&rsquo;re sitting down, this granite is very cold on my fat rear end.<br />KARPOWICZ: It warms up in summertime.<br /><br />The sculptures stand as high as 14 feet. They&rsquo;re spanning a half-mile boulevard called West Franklin for the next year. The artists are all members of a group called Chicago Sculpture International.<br /><br />Karpowicz takes me to a pile of rings made of industrial tubing.<br /><br />KARPOWICZ: That&rsquo;s a sculpture by Dusty Falwarczny. The title of the sculpture is &ldquo;Scrap.&rdquo; I measure that one as, probably, a three-shopping-cart operation.<br />MITCHELL: You measure the volume by shopping carts?<br />KARPOWICZ: That&rsquo;s how many shopping carts it&rsquo;ll take to get that to a scrap yard. Because you see a lot of hardworking men with shopping carts and they pick up debris and take it to recycling places.<br />MITCHELL: Have you ever lost one of your works to shopping carts?<br />KARPOWICZ: No, thank goodness.<br /><br />And there&rsquo;s more to see. Karpowicz shows me a giant, spiky sphere made of orange traffic cones. And there&rsquo;s a stainless-steel piece called &ldquo;Abduction.&rdquo;<br /><br />The installation is definitely capturing attention in the neighborhood.<br /><br />MAN: Oh, man, that&rsquo;s cool. Who did that?<br />WOMAN: It beautifies the neighborhood.<br />MAN: It&rsquo;s really nice for the block.<br />GRANT: I like them.<br />MITCHELL: What&rsquo;s your name?<br />GRANT: My name is Felincia Grant.<br />MITCHELL: Do any of the pieces stick out to you -- that you can really relate to?<br />GRANT: The one that&rsquo;s all the way down on Franklin and Kedzie. It looks like a hook. Actually, to be honest with you, I had a nephew that was--there used to be a tree there. My nephew ran into this tree. And that&rsquo;s where he died. And that piece, right there, it was put where the tree was.<br />MITCHELL: Does it remind you of him?<br />GRANT: Yeah. He had these hooked attitudes at times. He made a lot of bad choices. But he was a good kid.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s easy to find people who admire at least some of the 10 new sculptures in East Garfield Park. It&rsquo;s harder to find folks who have a beef with the installation, but they are around.<br /><br />FIELDS: My name is Cy Fields.<br /><br />Fields is pastor of New Landmark Missionary Baptist Church, a few blocks southeast of the parkway.<br /><br />FIELDS: It seems like they just plopped artwork in the community and just sort of said, &lsquo;Well, here it is and, surprise, I hope you enjoy it.&rsquo; I&rsquo;m not against community beautification and artwork, but I think the process and the end goal are very important. Many schools are struggling to have art classes in the schools. Can the artists come and teach the kids in East Garfield Park? Communities of color--African American and Latino--have their share of capable artists. Will their artwork be able to go to the North Side or to other communities as well? Let&rsquo;s have a cultural exchange.<br /><br />Fields isn&rsquo;t the only one talking about race. An unemployed interior decorator named Tony Green wants to know why the sculptures ended up in his neighborhood.<br /><br />GREEN: Only in the black community with no blacks involved. That&rsquo;s not personal, is it?<br /><br />These are fair questions. Karpowicz&rsquo;s group got an alderman&rsquo;s approval to put the sculptures up. But the group did not work with residents to choose the art or get them involved any other way.<br /><br />MITCHELL: How about helping artists in this community display their art here on the boulevard?<br />KARPOWICZ: Well, if those artists were members of Chicago Sculpture International, which they certainly can become part of, they&rsquo;d be the first ones on the list. It&rsquo;s not about shutting anybody out. It&rsquo;s about inclusivity.<br /><br />But then Karpowicz tells me the group&rsquo;s got a hundred and forty-nine members and not one is African American.<br /><br />MITCHELL: Why is that? Something like a third or 40 percent of the population here in the city is African American. <br />KARPOWICZ: We don&rsquo;t reach out, we don&rsquo;t publicize. As a result of an exhibition like this, if there are sculptors out there who happen to be African American [and] they want to be sculptors, the door is open. It&rsquo;s always open.<br /><br />He points out annual memberships cost only 25 dollars.<br /><br />Karpowicz and I keep talking as he shows me some sculptures toward the end of the parkway. He reminds me they&rsquo;ll be up in East Garfield Park only a year.<br /><br />KARPOWICZ: A lot of the people who live around here probably wouldn&rsquo;t venture downtown to see sculpture. And this is our opportunity, as part of the sculpture community of Chicago, to bring art to the communities.<br />MITCHELL: Where we&rsquo;re standing right now, we&rsquo;ve got a vacant lot on this side and we&rsquo;ve got another vacant lot we&rsquo;re standing in right now. The population here--they&rsquo;re not going to be buying these pieces afterwards.<br />KARPOWICZ: No, they probably won&rsquo;t, Chip, but I think they&rsquo;ll appreciate art a lot more. They&rsquo;ll appreciate sculpture. Next time they see a piece of art, they&rsquo;ll say, &lsquo;Oh yeah, we had one of those in our neighborhood once.&rsquo;<br /><br />If this installation works out, Karpowicz says his group&rsquo;ll try to bring sculptures to other Chicago boulevards. Next time, he says, the artists will try harder to get the neighborhood involved.</p></p> Wed, 08 Dec 2010 22:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/abductions/when-someone-else%E2%80%99s-art-lands-your-neighborhood