WBEZ | Englewood http://www.wbez.org/tags/englewood Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago Ald. JoAnn Thompson dies http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-ald-joann-thompson-dies-111530 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/JoAnn-Thompson-Head-Shot-Transparent.png" style="height: 273px; width: 200px; float: left;" title="16th Ward Ald. Joann Thompson died Tuesday Feb. 10, 2015. (Courtesy aldermanthompson.com)" />Chicago Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th) has died from sudden heart failure.</p><p>Thompson missed a debate last weekend for medical reasons. At the time, her campaign manager said the alderman had undergone a medical procedure but her prognosis was good.&nbsp;</p><p>Thompson&#39;s ward covers Englewood and Gage Park on the city&#39;s South Side.</p><p>The alderman&#39;s chief of staff, Debbie Blair, said Thompson died surrounded by her family, friends and &quot;lots of love from the greater Englewood community which she served with devotion to her final day.&quot; Thompson was 58.</p><p>Thompson was known by many for her recent efforts to bring a Whole Foods to Englewood, raise the minimum wage, and neighborhood initiatives like the 16th Ward Festival on 63rd street. &nbsp;</p><p>South Side Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) knew Thompson before her City Council days, and he says even though he didn&#39;t side with Emanuel as often as Thompson did, the two council members found ways to work together.</p><p>&quot;Sometimes, we had to work, like we called it an inside outside game. But we were fighting for the same thing. She was working internally within the constructs of the administration, I would work as a fighter on the outside, but we were working for the same cause,&quot; Sawyer said.</p><p>Others remember her as a &quot;genuine&quot; and &quot;honest&quot; leader.</p><p>&quot;I would say the alderman was a litmus test. It was either yes or no with her. And that&#39;s good, because you didn&#39;t have anything between. She was very straightforth with her opinions, she was very honest with her opinions,&quot; said Glen Fulton, President of the Greater Englewood CDC.</p><p>Thompson was in a heated election battle with 15th ward Ald.Toni Foulkes. Foulkes is a member of the progressive caucus, whose ward was shifted in the remap. She&#39;s faced some attacks from a pro-Emanuel PAC.</p><p>Today, Ald. Foulkes said she was &quot;deeply saddened&quot; to hear of Thompsons&#39;s death.</p><p>&quot;We worked together as members of the Black Caucus on many important policy initiatives since we were both elected in 2007,&quot; Foulkes said in a statement. &ldquo;I admired her fierce commitment to the constituents and communities of the 16th Ward.&quot;</p><p>Members of the Black Caucus said &quot;today is not a day of politics&quot; and celebrated Thompson as an &quot;exceptional alderman, member of the Black caucus and most of all, a fighter for her community.&quot;</p><p>Thompson was born on the South Side of Chicago.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 08:59:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-ald-joann-thompson-dies-111530 Englewood girls learn how to restore furniture, and their community http://www.wbez.org/news/englewood-girls-learn-how-restore-furniture-and-their-community-110759 <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/furniture%20thumb.jpg" title="Jamika Smith is the founder of Teena’s Legacy, a furniture reupholstery apprenticeship program named for her grandmother. (Courtesy of Jamika Smith)" /></div><p>Four young women are in an airy living room in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. They are learning how to reupholster second-hand furniture. As the sound of a stapler echoes throughout the home, one is pulling them out from a worn chair.</p><p>Across the room Laquisha Clinton refurbishes a foot stool. She picked out some fabric the color of regal purple.</p><p>&ldquo;It shows my gratitude and attitude toward fashion,&rdquo; Clinton said.</p><p>Jamika Smith is trying to teach a trade that she hopes will lead to self discovery for a group of Englewood girls. There&rsquo;s a lot of talk about the high youth unemployment rate in Chicago. For black youth, the figure is close to 90 percent. But girls are sometimes left out of the conversation.</p><p>Smith first learned how to restore furniture from her grandmother Miss Teena. As a teen, she didn&rsquo;t always appreciate her grandmother&rsquo;s skills. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I did not,&rdquo; Smith said laughing. &ldquo;But she used to have my brother and I garbage dump. Go down alleys and pick up dressers and chairs and things to that nature so it was kind of embarrassing.&rdquo;</p><p>But the garbage dump isn&rsquo;t so bad now. That&rsquo;s where she finds pieces for the girls in her apprentice group. She calls it <a href="https://www.facebook.com/teenalegacy">Teena&rsquo;s Legacy</a> in honor of her late grandmother.</p><p>Smith said learning a trade is important but she has bigger aspirations for these girls.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s more of how these young women find out who they are as individuals, finding out what is their style. Finding out what do they like and what kind of woman to they aspire to be.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/furniture%20inset.jpg" style="height: 444px; width: 250px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Laquisha Clinton refurbishes a foot stool as part of Teena’s Legacy. (Natalie Moore/WBEZ)" />For Smith, repairing furniture is a metaphor.</p><p>&ldquo;The whole concept is you have this chair that needs restoring and reviving and there may be something in your life that needs restoring and reviving, too.&rdquo;</p><p>All the girls are from Englewood, a neighborhood rocked by high unemployment and poverty with few activities for youth.</p><p>&ldquo;I probably would be outside with my friends all summer on the streets even though I know the streets can be dangerous,&rdquo; said 17-year old Jannie Ross. She&rsquo;s wearing a Cleveland Browns football jersey as she puts the final touches on a cotton candy colored chair. She painted it pink and added fake fur.</p><p>&ldquo;Fluffy is just like my personality. Bubbly. The pink feels sympathy for me. Because I have a lot of sympathy for some people I know going through a lot of stuff like I am,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Now Jannie&rsquo;s adding rhinestones. The blinged-out chair looks like it belongs in a Las Vegas hotel.</p><p>Teena&rsquo;s Legacy is a pilot summer program. Smith wants to raise more money to work with more girls throughout the year.</p><p>Smith said her young charges may not go into the furniture business full time. She hasn&rsquo;t. But knowing a trade gives them a chance to earn a little money on the side.</p><p>&ldquo;At the end of the day it&rsquo;s important that we invest in our women because they are powerful and they do have influence,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p>Take Shawtiana Clinton, for example. She took an &ldquo;ugly brown chair,&rdquo; as she describes it, and put a new pattern on it.</p><p>&ldquo;I picked cheetah because it&rsquo;s powerful.&rdquo;</p><p>Shawtiana said that print now makes her feel powerful.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>&nbsp;Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 12:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/englewood-girls-learn-how-restore-furniture-and-their-community-110759 Morning Shift: Activist shows another side of Englewood http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-06-02/morning-shift-activist-shows-another-side-englewood <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Englewood Flickr frankebones.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We hear what&#39;s happening on the same sex marriage front as the law officially takes effect in Illinois. We also have music from Chicago singer songwriter Daniela Sloan. Plus, a look at this month&#39;s Midwest Independent Film Festival with a movie shot in Chicago.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-activist-shows-another-side-of-engle/embed?header=false&border=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-activist-shows-another-side-of-engle.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-activist-shows-another-side-of-engle" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Activist shows another side of Englewood " on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 02 Jun 2014 08:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-06-02/morning-shift-activist-shows-another-side-englewood Teens learning radio skills in Chicago police program http://www.wbez.org/news/teens-learning-radio-skills-chicago-police-program-109447 <p><p>A pair of police officers on Chicago&rsquo;s South Side are helping teens learn radio production in an effort to keep them off the streets and improve their views on cops.</p><p>The program in the Englewood neighborhood fits with a push by Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy to improve the relationship between police officers and the people they serve.</p><p>It is called the 7th District Youth Anti-Violence Media Program. It introduces teens to the ins and outs of radio production, and gives them a chance to get on the air.</p><p>The classes are held three days a week at Kennedy-King College. The broadcasting instructors there pitch in to teach the kids.</p><p>The program was started by Daliah Goree-Pruitt and Claudette Knight, both community policing (or CAPS) officers. The two started out as beat cops. Now they are in charge of neighborhood outreach, counseling crime victims, and running community meetings &nbsp;in a neighborhood struggling with some of the highest crime rates in the city.</p><p>The two had a lot to do already. Knight and Goree-Pruitt also do a weekly food give-away and hand out turkeys before Thanksgiving. On the Saturday before Christmas, they gave away toys at the station house located at 1438 W. 63rd Street.</p><p>But 7th District Deputy Chief Leo Schmitz came to them last spring with a new task.</p><p>&ldquo;He was like, &lsquo;Think of something that we can do for the kids,&rsquo;&rdquo; Goree-Pruitt said.</p><p>Schmitz was worried about the summer then coming up, when hot temperatures and idle teens could contribute to a spike in violent crime.</p><p>Knight said they wanted to do something new.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, something different, some other added activity because you always hear basketball, baseball, but not all kids are sports-inclined,&rdquo; Knight said.</p><p>They wanted to do a swim program, but they could not get the funding. Goree-Pruitt said the only thing the department had money for was t-shirts for the participants. So Goree-Pruitt and Knight needed partners.</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/CAPS%202%20%281%29.jpg" style="height: 272px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Jamar Houston of WKKC teaches Jermaine Robinson how to DJ. (WBEZ/Patrick Smith)" /></div><p>Kennedy-King College, about a mile west of the 7th District station, has a broadcasting department and its own radio station, WKKC. Knight said it was the &ldquo;perfect opportunity.&rdquo; They approached the college and got the OK.</p><p>So all they needed were students. This turned out to not be easy. The two went personally to high school principals in the area, asking them to recommend students for the program&hellip; and they got almost no response. Then they asked area pastors - again, nothing.</p><p>So Goree-Pruitt and Knight just started approaching random kids on the street and around the neighborhood.</p><p>That&rsquo;s how Genavie Clark heard about it.</p><p>&ldquo;One day [I was] sitting in Dunkin&rsquo; Donuts, and all the officers were sitting in Dunkin&rsquo; Donuts, and Officer Goree came up to my table and she told us about the radio program. So I signed up for it,&rdquo; Genavie said.</p><p>Ultimately, the two got 20 teens of high school age for that first summer class, and it went so well they did a smaller after-school version this fall.</p><p>The program gets by mostly on the power of Goree-Pruitt and Knight&rsquo;s charisma, which is considerable. But these two career cops know nothing about radio production, and they do not have any money to pay instructors.</p><p>So the students learn mostly by observing WKKC in action.</p><p>The kids are exposed to a lot of the skills that go into producing a radio show: hosting, logging tape, mixing audio - even DJ-ing.</p><p>Station manager Dennis Snipe comes in every once in awhile to talk to the students about diction and public speaking, the assistant program director lets them look over her shoulder while she logs tape, and the hosts give them pointers during music breaks.</p><p>The summer classes were from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., so the students had to be fed. The owner of a shopping plaza across the street from the station donated Subway sandwiches.</p><p>So it&rsquo;s a nice story. But at first glance, none of it seems much like police work.</p><p>Knight disagrees.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s all about community interaction, because the youth especially, most of their interaction with the police is negative. So if you start introducing a positive interaction at a teenage level, then they start to view us in a different way,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>WBEZ ran a story on Dec. 23 about <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/8000-chicago-cops-now-little-friendlier-109425">police legitimacy training: thousands of Chicago cops re-learning how to best interact with the people they serve.</a></p><p>Efforts such as the radio program and legitimacy training fit with Superintendent McCarthy&rsquo;s priority on what he calls a return to community policing.</p><p>A recent study by Yale criminologist Andrew Papachristos found that Chicago in 2013 has had its lowest violent-crime rate in the past three decades. McCarthy credits community policing with a decrease in crime.</p><p>Goree-Pruitt believes it&rsquo;s part of her job to connect with people.</p><p>&ldquo;I feel like I can help these kids. I may not help all of them, but the ones that I can help, they&rsquo;ll know the police department just don&rsquo;t lock kids up,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Besides teaching them how to produce a radio show and to like cops, the officers use the class as a way to help the students deal with their own issues. They talk to the students about resolving conflicts, safe sex, and staying out of trouble.</p><p>Before they start the radio lessons, the students gather around a round table in a small windowless room across from the WKKC studios.</p><p>One of the girls is talking to Goree-Pruitt about problems she is having with her stepmom. She says her dad is getting a divorce, and he blames her.</p><p>Goree-Pruitt councils her on being the mature one, even though her stepmom is the adult.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve had the same issues, having two parents to living with just my mom, to my mom getting remarried, to my mom getting rid of all four of her daughters to be with this new husband, to my dad raising four daughters by himself. So I am no different from you all. Like I tell you all, because we&rsquo;re the police doesn&rsquo;t mean that we&rsquo;re not human,&rdquo; Goree-Pruitt told them.</p><p>Goree-Pruitt and Knight look tougher than they sound, and they both spent time on the beat, dealing with high-stress situations. But they also have families of their own, so maybe it is not surprising that they connect so well with teens.</p><p>&ldquo;When I come here it just, all my stress just goes away,&rdquo; freshman Wattsita Henley said.</p><p>The fall class, which ended earlier this month, was five high schoolers, three girls and two boys, and most did not seem like the types police really need to worry about.</p><p>Freshman James Cross Jr. said the closest he has ever gotten to drugs is seeing weed in a bag at school.</p><p>&ldquo;One of my friends showed me a bag, and I don&rsquo;t know why but I just started laughing,&rdquo; James &nbsp;told the group.</p><p>The other boy, Jermaine Robinson, has gotten into some trouble in the past.</p><p>He left Englewood to live with his grandmother in suburban Hazel Crest for a few years. &nbsp;He said he came back because it was just too quiet out there.</p><p>Robinson is about to start at Winnie Mandela, an alternative high school in the South Shore neighborhood.</p><p>He likes working with his hands, so he is trying to learn how to DJ.</p><p>His ultimate goal is to be a computer engineer.</p><p>&ldquo;Because like, when I was in 5th grade we did a program, and I earned a computer and I was taking it apart and putting it back together and stuff like that,&rdquo; Jermaine said.</p><p>Goree-Pruitt said she is not worried about what type of kids they are reaching, adding that she is just glad to be reaching any.</p><p>&ldquo; All I can say is that you touch one you reach another one, because they&rsquo;ll tell, they&rsquo;ll tell their friends.&rdquo;</p><p>The next radio class starts in January.</p><p>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/pksmid">@pksmid</a>.</p></p> Fri, 27 Dec 2013 14:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/teens-learning-radio-skills-chicago-police-program-109447 Whole Foods plans to replicate Detroit success in Englewood http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/whole-foods-plans-replicate-detroit-success-englewood-109140 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr_whole foods_SchuminWeb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Englewood and Detroit have a lot in common.</p><p dir="ltr">They are both shorthand for black and urban areas, but they also both include middle-class homeowners and a gritty vibrancy.</p><p dir="ltr">Still, they seemed unlikely candidates for the yuppie favorite Whole Foods Market, given high rates of food insecurity, unemployment and poverty.</p><p dir="ltr">Defying expectations, Whole Foods is the first national grocer to open in Detroit &mdash; a city of 700,000 &mdash; in years. The market is in Midtown, a bustling area near Wayne State University and a medical district, but nearby firebombed homes wither on urban prairie.</p><p dir="ltr">At the end of a recent business day, the Detroit Whole Foods parking lot is packed. Inside, customers of all ages and racial backgrounds stroll the aisles.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;One thing that I like that the Whole Foods decor team did was really listen to the community about how they wanted the store to feel aesthetically,&quot; &nbsp;said Store Manager Larry Austin. &quot;They wanted to make sure it felt like Detroit.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">The 21,000-square-foot store teems with Detroit touches &mdash;&nbsp;vintage Motown records dangle from cash registers and cafe tables are made of car scraps. The store hosts classes on vegan nutrition and disc jockeys spin techno music.</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;The people here are prideful,&quot; said Austin. &quot;They want you to be real and they have expectations.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">As the chain prepares to open a store at 63rd and Halsted, Englewood residents, movers and shakers can look to the Detroit store as an exmple of what to expect.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">For example, before ground even broke on the Detroit location, residents expressed concern about jobs and transparency. In response, Whole Foods partnered with local nonprofits to hold information sessions on the hiring procecss. Today, 65 percent of the employees are native Detroiters.</p><p dir="ltr">Jobs weren&rsquo;t the only concern. Pricing was, too. Austin says the company listened.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If you come to Whole Foods Market and you buy artisan cheeses and artisan olive oil, then yeah, your grocery bill is going go climb,&quot; Austin said. &quot;But if you come and shop staples, you shop our groceries, you shop produce [...] you&rsquo;ll see we got bagged apples right now for $2.99 a bag.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Bus driver Eva Turner lives in Detroit and didn&rsquo;t frequent Whole Foods until this store opened. She loads her cart with pita bread, snap peas, apples, chicken gizzards and hummus.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You can find some good bargains,&quot; she said. &quot;For instance, they had the chicken thighs for $1.29 a pound, which is a good deal &#39;cause if you go to a regular store, that&rsquo;s what you&rsquo;re going to pay but it&rsquo;s kind of fresher here.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The Detroit Whole Foods offers about 150 local products, from granola to alkaline water.</p><p dir="ltr">Nailah Ellis owns the Detriot company Ellis Island Tropical Tea. She says her&nbsp;bold-red hibiscus tea&nbsp;is a family recipe passed down from her great-grandfather, who was the master chef for Marcus Garvey&rsquo;s Black Star Line.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;I&rsquo;m getting ready to also open a production facility in Detroit and once I get that open I&rsquo;ll start creating more flavors and I&rsquo;ll be able to produce more and take on more accounts,&quot; she said. &quot;Whole Foods regional is looking at putting me in the Whole Foods Midwest region.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">One of the players instrumental in gaining community credibility is holistic expert and Detroit native Versandra Kennebrew. Whole Foods offered free space to holistic providers, Kennebrew was one of them, and they hired her to conduct community outreach.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The grand opening day of Whole Foods Market was a day in history for the company, said Kennebrew. &quot;They sold more produce in one day on the grand opening day than than any store that opened in the history of Whole Foods Market.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">Whole Foods officials won&rsquo;t release store sales but they say the Detroit location has exceeded expectations. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Like Englewood, the city&rsquo;s reputation elicited sourness when Whole Foods announced its plans.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;People outside view our community [...] think oh you come here I&rsquo;m going to get mugged,&quot; said Carolyn Miller of Ser Metro Detroit, one of the agencies that helped Whole Foods recruit local employees.&nbsp;&quot;[They say] we&rsquo;re just despair. We&rsquo;re not. We have people who want to eat organic food.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">Khalilah Gaston runs a community development corporation in a neighborhood just north of the Detroit Whole Foods&nbsp;that aims to fight a history of disinvestment. She says Whole Foods has become a model for other projects coming to the neighborhood. The expectation of giving back is higher.</p><p dir="ltr">Still, Whole Foods is not without its critics.</p><p dir="ltr">Urban farmer Greg Willerer is one of them. He owns a city farm dubbed Brother Nature several miles away from the new Whole Foods, one of many new urban farms in the area that provide fresh food to residents.</p><p dir="ltr">He gives Whole Foods props for its strategic campaign, but he questions the $4.2 million in tax incentives the company received from the city.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There&rsquo;s this climate that Whole Foods is coming into where a lot of public money is being given to major corporations and all of these amazing black-owned businesses and other businesses in the city don&rsquo;t get that kind of help,&quot; Willerer said. &quot;Yet we call that development when a corporation comes in and puts up this brilliantly flashy sexy-looking store.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">Still, the age old adage retail attracts retail remains. A month after Whole Foods opened, the national chain Meijer cut the ribbon on its first Detroit store.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is a WBEZ reporter.&nbsp;</em><em>Follow her on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 13 Nov 2013 08:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/whole-foods-plans-replicate-detroit-success-englewood-109140 Advocates say Whole Foods may struggle to find customers in Englewood http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/advocates-say-whole-foods-may-struggle-find-customers-englewood-108608 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Fresh Moves 1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>(Updated at 3 p.m. with additional comment from Fresh Moves co-founder Steven Casey.)</em></p><p>While many city officials trumpeted the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/high-end-grocer-coming-south-side-food-desert-108600">news</a> of a Whole Foods coming to Englewood, some who&rsquo;ve worked for years to sell fresh produce in the area advise cautious optimism and lots of education.</p><p>They also question the sustainability of a Whole Foods in Englewood barely a week after <a href="http://www.freshmoves.org/">Fresh Moves</a>, a widely touted non-profit that sold produce in the area from converted CTA buses, announced it was shutting down its mobile operations due to lack of funds.</p><p>Until last month, Julian Champion served as executive director of Fresh Moves. He commends Whole Foods&rsquo; commitment to the impoverished neighborhood but warns that they&rsquo;ll need to lay a lot of groundwork before opening in 2016.</p><p>&ldquo;Whole Foods will have to approach this as a social mission unlike many of the other very profitable supermarkets,&rdquo; Champion said. &ldquo;If the mentality going in is that &lsquo;we hope to be profitable but this is a mission&rsquo; then I think they will be able to manage expectations and enjoy some peace. But they also have to be committed to customer creation.&rdquo;</p><p>Creating customers, let alone finding them, proved to be a challenge for Fresh Moves despite a unique model that addressed accessibility issues by taking the fresh produce directly to the customer. Champion said the Fresh Moves mobile produce buses were losing about $300 a day, which created an unsustainable drag on their bottom line. He says that pressure will be even greater for a company like Whole Foods. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;From my experience there are people who will appreciate what Whole Food does and brings,&rdquo; Champion said, &ldquo;but it&rsquo;s not going to be a critical mass, and so they will have to be committed to creating these people who understand what they are doing and appreciate the presence of the store.&rdquo;</p><p>Last week, in a newsletter to supporters announcing the shutdown of mobile operations, Fresh Moves co-founder Steven Casey said the organization was &ldquo;facing the headwinds of a dynamic environment of rising costs, legislative uncertainty and challenging resource allocations on a local, state and federal levels.&rdquo;</p><p>Casey says that the Board hopes to find new partners and relaunch in the future but there is no firm date on when that might happen. He confirmed that Fresh Moves drivers have been laid off and the converted buses are lying dormant.&nbsp;</p><p>Which raises the question: if a non-profit offering affordable non-organic produce can&rsquo;t make it in Englewood, what chance does Whole Foods&rsquo; higher-priced organic offerings stand?</p><p>&ldquo;Their price point for organic and locally grown quality fruits and vegetables can be pricey but they will have to find a way to subsidize that so that it will be accessible to the residents of the community,&rdquo; Champion said.</p><p>Sonya Harper is the outreach manager at Growing Home a non-profit that runs organic urban farms &nbsp;including two in Englewood. There, it is has operated a farm stand for at least three years, selling its produce for half of what it charges at Lincoln Park&rsquo;s Green City Market, Harper says. But the stand has yet to turn a profit.</p><p>&ldquo;We still need more education around healthy eating and organic produce and cooking,&quot; Harper said. &quot;We are finding that a lot of folks are not cooking and so they don&#39;t really know what to do with fresh fruits and vegetables, even though we are giving them away almost free in some instances. They just aren&#39;t cooking them and eating them as much as we&#39;d hope.&quot;</p><p>That said, Harper noted that the farm stand is making progress. After first year sales of less than $900 in 2011, that increased twofold the following year and sales are now set to triple in 2013.</p><p>What led to the bump in sales?</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve had a tremendous increase in canvassing the neighborhood &nbsp;and speaking to neighbors one- on-one,&rdquo; she said &ldquo;We wanted people to see that we were really involved in the community not just here to sell them food from the farm stand.&rdquo;</p><p>She advises Whole Foods to do the same, featuring the same kinds of workshops, partnerships and classes they&rsquo;ve made a part of their other stores.</p><p>But pricing could still be a challenge for a company that wants to turn a profit.</p><p>&ldquo;Our sales at the Englewood Farm Stand are more of a community service,&rdquo; Harper notes. &ldquo;We are not selling them at market value or Whole Foods prices. We are selling them at Growing-Home-Farm-Stand-we-really-want-you-to get-fresh-vegetables-and-afford-them-prices.&rdquo;</p><p>Yesterday Whole Foods executive Michael Barshaw told WBEZ that the company wants to work with the <a href="http://www.ccc.edu/colleges/kennedy/departments/Pages/Washburne-Culinary-Institute.aspx">Washburne Culinary Institute</a> at nearby Kennedy King College.</p><p>&ldquo;We hope that Whole Foods would offer educational classes on healthy eating, nutrition and cooking,&rdquo; Barshaw said.</p><p>For Mari Gallagher a researcher and consultant who has done groundbreaking research on food deserts, the store may not solve all of the neighborhoods problems but can be a positive start.</p><p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t choose healthy food if you don&rsquo;t have access to begin with,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;What&rsquo;s most exciting is that retail attracts retail and like attracts like. So Whole Foods could become a game-changer and anchor to revitalize the commercial district. But this all depends on how the community builds on it.&rdquo;</p><p>Connie Spreen heads Experimental Station in Chicago&rsquo;s Woodlawn neighborhood, which pioneered the double value food stamp program at its 61st Street Farmers Market. She and her colleagues have worked for the last few years to make sustainable produce affordable to low-income Chicagoans through the double value program but on a very small scale.</p><p>&ldquo;We have learned over the six years of operating our market that affordability of the healthy foods sold at the Market is a major concern for low-income customers. Obviously so. A Whole Foods in Englewood will not only have to accept LINK benefits, but will also have to ensure that the prices of the products they offer reflect the ability of the local community to pay for them.&rdquo;</p><p>Spreen says she&rsquo;s intrigued but also has a lot of questions about how they will address the affordability issue.</p><p>&ldquo;Will that mean that they will offer lower-quality produce to keep the prices low?&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;Or will that mean that they will offer high-quality products at a lower price, but perhaps offset lesser profits gained at the Englewood location with higher profits from other Chicago stores?&rdquo;</p><p>For Gallagher, creating a model for selling healthy food to the nation&rsquo;s highest risk populations is one of the biggest potential benefits of the Whole Foods project.</p><p>&ldquo;We need to learn what does and doesn&rsquo;t work,&rdquo; she says, &ldquo;and I am hopeful that Whole Foods will let this be a bit of a learning lab in helping people crossover to those healthy foods and making it more affordable to families. They have to protect their business concerns so I don&rsquo;t expect them to give all their numbers away but my hope is that they will.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a></em></p></p> Wed, 04 Sep 2013 13:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/advocates-say-whole-foods-may-struggle-find-customers-englewood-108608 Vote delayed on controversial rail yard expansion in Englewood http://www.wbez.org/news/vote-delayed-controversial-rail-yard-expansion-englewood-108472 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 11.26.32 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p>Norfolk Southern&rsquo;s expansion into Chicago&rsquo;s Englewood neighborhood continues to face questions from resistant residents.</p><p>Last week, the Chicago Plan Commission had Norfolk Southern on the agenda. The scheduled vote was supposed to be just a formality in language - adding &ldquo;light industrial/commercial classification&rdquo; in the tax increment financing (TIF) to allow the company to expand. But residents successfully lobbied commissioners to delay a vote after they showed up at the commission meeting.</p><p>Residents want concrete promises from the company to address environmental hazards and economic development. They worry about health impacts of truck traffic. Englewood already has some of the highest asthma rates in the city. What the rail company has offered isn&rsquo;t enough for activists and residents.</p><p><em>This video from the Aug. 16 meeting, shot by <a href="http://davidschalliol.com/‎" target="_blank">David Schalliol. </a></em></p></p> Wed, 21 Aug 2013 11:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/vote-delayed-controversial-rail-yard-expansion-englewood-108472 Englewood, Bronzeville wait for mayor’s ‘opportunity’ plan to pay off http://www.wbez.org/news/englewood-bronzeville-wait-mayor%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98opportunity%E2%80%99-plan-pay-108297 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/opportunity neighborhood_130806_nm.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Englewood and Bronzeville are two black, South Side neighborhoods facing unique yet separate challenges.</p><p>Englewood is decades off from anything close to resembling gentrification. The neighborhood is known more for its crime, poverty and vast swaths of empty land starved for development. Historic Bronzeville is close to Lake Michigan and downtown. A new, black middle class bought and rehabbed stunning greystones. Yet retail and amenities have greatly lagged.</p><p>Both of these communities could use a boost and that&rsquo;s what Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is now promising.</p><p>Last spring, Emanuel designated seven city neighborhoods as so-called &ldquo;<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/press_room/press_releases/2013/march_2013/mayor_emanuel_announcesopportunityareasaspartoflong-termstrategi.html" target="_blank">opportunity areas</a>.&rdquo; The idea was to target public and private development in these communities to help attract much needed investment. Englewood and Bronzeville are two of the communities, but some residents there still aren&rsquo;t clear on what the opportunity strategy means.</p><p>&ldquo;I wanted to approach our neighborhood development strategy different. In a more coordinated fashion. I said we have an unprecedented amount of infrastructure investment. We should bring coordinated investment for greater value for our neighborhoods,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s plan for the neighborhoods is long on hope but short on details. Some of what he&rsquo;s touting was already in the works. So how does this new opportunity designation actually help these areas?</p><p>Let&rsquo;s visit Englewood first.</p><p>On a recent summer Saturday some residents got together in Sherwood Park, which has a reputation for being dangerous. Englewood activist Asiaha Butler was there helping facilitate what she calls &ldquo;positive loitering.&rdquo; As children ran in an open field, Frankie Beverly and Maze&rsquo;s &ldquo;Happy Feelin&rsquo;s&rdquo; blared over the DJ&rsquo;s speakers.</p><p>&ldquo;I wasn&rsquo;t shocked that Englewood would be a target place. We&rsquo;re the poster child of the urban area gone wrong. So if you had any type of opportunities or things from the mayor, I definitely think we&rsquo;d be the ones chosen for that,&rdquo; Butler said.</p><p>As part of the opportunity strategy Emanuel said his office will help develop 2,500 city-owned vacant lots in Englewood. That could mean the kind of urban agriculture that has already turned some empty lots into vegetable gardens &ndash; in an area overrun with fast-food joints. Butler said she&rsquo;s fine with that model, to a degree.</p><p>&ldquo;What I&rsquo;m afraid of is that is that it may be too much,&rdquo; Butler said. &ldquo;That scares me a little bit because I&rsquo;m not a farmer and I don&rsquo;t know what to do with all this land. I&rsquo;d like to see more activities in these spaces and not just gardens; I think it could be something more,&rdquo; she continued.</p><p>But according to Butler, the city&rsquo;s top-down approach hasn&rsquo;t left much room for community input. She says resident leaders aren&rsquo;t in the loop about future plans or an overall vision for the neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;I would want to see more sitting areas with the vacant lots. Definitely more retail and the commercial corridor district and even developing more commercial retail,&rdquo; Butler said.</p><p>One of Emanuel&rsquo;s bullet points for Englewood is a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/englewood-residents-fight-environmental-safeguards-during-rail-yard-expansion-105823" target="_blank">railyard expansion by Norfolk Southern</a> that&rsquo;s supposed to inject economic vitality. But the controversial project will demolish homes in Englewood and could lead to an increase in air pollution.</p><p>Another bullet point is leveraging Kennedy-King College as a community anchor on 63rd Street. But that&rsquo;s been a struggle ever since the new facility opened several years ago, and it&rsquo;s not clear how the opportunity area will change that.</p><p>One thing that might help neighborhood development is tax increment financing, or TIFs. It&rsquo;s a tool that collects local property taxes from specific areas and then puts it in a fund with little oversight. Originally created to eradicate blight, TIFs tend to go to the rich and well-connected.</p><p>A close look at TIFs over the past decade in Englewood and Bronzeville&nbsp; &ndash; neighborhoods with no shortage of blight &ndash; shows no major retail activity. Most of the Bronzeville area TIFs helped build new mixed-income housing after the city demolished public-housing high rises.</p><p>&ldquo;Millions of dollars spent on primarily affordable housing, which is very important,&rdquo; says Bronzeville entrepreneur Bernard Loyd. But Loyd continued, &ldquo;If it is the only investment in the community, it&rsquo;s going to dramatically skew development in a direction that ultimately is not productive for the community.&rdquo;</p><p>Loyd&rsquo;s using TIF money for something other than housing. In 2010, the city council approved three million dollars in TIF funds for Loyd&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.urban-juncture.com/index.html" target="_blank">Urban Juncture</a>, which will be four restaurants with food from the African diaspora. The project, on 51st Street, will be a much needed oasis in a food desert.</p><p>It&rsquo;s not built yet, but the site is already an urban garden with kale and tomatoes and cooking pavillion.&nbsp; And a place where children can play tic tac toe and dominoes.</p><p>Still, Loyd&rsquo;s not sure what the city&rsquo;s larger vision is for the area.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re all excited to have Bronzeville named as an opportunity neighborhood and we would all agree that Bronzeville indeed is an opportunity neighborhood, so many unfilled needs. At the same time, I have yet to see a plan. There&rsquo;s language about opportunity but not much of a plan that says here&rsquo;s how we will capture the opportunity, here&rsquo;s how we will facilitate investment,&rdquo; Loyd said.</p><p>Another TIF project in Bronzeville is underway at 47th and Cottage Grove. Construction crews are building a Wal-Mart. Emanuel says he lured the retail giant as part of his Bronzeville plan &ndash; with hopes that it will spur additional retail investment. Right now some low-income and middle-class residents have to leave their South Side community just to go to a grocery store.</p><p>It&rsquo;s hard to ignore the race factor when looking at the lack of economic development in black communities. So I directly asked Emanuel about the stigmatization of race on the South Side.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, there&rsquo;s an economic and racial piece. On the other hand, our investment in Bronzeville will give some of the retailers &ndash; because it has all of the potential there &ndash; the confidence to come. They want to know it&rsquo;s stable and it&rsquo;s growing. We&rsquo;re not going to invest unless we also have that confidence and we&rsquo;re going to invest to give them the confidence to come to a Bronzeville,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>The mayor says that will soon include a deluxe grocery store on 39th Street.</p><p>But so far Mariano&rsquo;s is demurring.</p><p><strong>Here is a list of TIFs and their status in the Englewood and Bronzeville areas:</strong></p><ul dir="ltr"><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/49th_st_lawrencetif.html">49th/St. Lawrence</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/englewood_mall_tif.html">Englewood Mall TIF </a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/ryan_garfield_tif.html">Ryan/Garfield</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/43rd_cottage_grovetif.html">43rd/Cottage Grove</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/bronzeville_tif_.html">Bronzeville</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/24th_michigan_tif.html">24th/Michigan</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/englewood_neighborhoodtif.html">Englewood Neighborhood</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/47th_king_tif_.html">47th/King</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/lakefront_tif_.html">Lakefront</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/drexel_tif_.html">Drexel</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/madden_wells_tif.html">Madden/Wells</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/35th_state_tif.html">35th/State</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/40th_state_tif_.html">40th/State</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/47th_state_tif_.html">47th/State</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/26th_king_tif.html">26th/King</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/tif/pershing_king_tif.html">Pershing/King</a></li></ul><p><em>Natalie Moore is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">@natalieymoore</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 06 Aug 2013 09:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/englewood-bronzeville-wait-mayor%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98opportunity%E2%80%99-plan-pay-108297 City tackles crime with demolitions http://www.wbez.org/news/city-tackles-crime-demolitions-107840 <p><p>Carl Carpenter has lived most of his 41 years in Englewood, starting at a time when the area was full of houses. But things have changed.</p><p>&ldquo;Every other block, you&rsquo;ve got anywhere between 5 to 6 vacant lots,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Some of those vacancies were part of collaboration between the Chicago Police Department and Department of Buildings to demolish structurally unsound properties that also bred criminal activity. About 300 buildings were knocked down in the last year.<br /><br />Carpenter, who lives with relatives in the South Side neighborhood, doesn&rsquo;t think the plan is a real solution to curb crime.<br /><br />&ldquo;If that&rsquo;s the best you can do, stop playing,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;That ain&rsquo;t fixing to do nothing. What&rsquo;s that going to stop?&rdquo;</p><p>Carpenter said the strategy of tearing down vacant homes makes it harder for low-income residents who may live in the foreclosed or abandoned properties.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s people who live there,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;You gonna force them to be homeless and force them into crime?&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Police Department said in the target area of the 3rd, 7th, 8th, 10th and 11th police districts, overall crime has dropped.</p><p>In the police district that covers Englewood, murders and overall crime are both down 19 percent from last year. Shootings are down 38 percent.</p><p>More than 100 properties in the area were demolished during this time.<br /><br />Leo Schmitz is the deputy chief of the 7th district. He said gang members use vacant buildings on strategic blocks to store either narcotics or weapons.</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/Screen%20Shot%202013-06-25%20at%203.43.30%20PM.png" style="float: right; height: 414px; width: 280px;" title="A neighbor of this Englewood apartment building who called himself &quot;Big Homie&quot; said he felt safer after the building was recently boarded up. (WBEZ/Tricia Bobeda)" />Schmitz said it&rsquo;s largely the community that brings problems to police attention. He said officials work with property owners first and only use demolition as a last resort.</div><p>&ldquo;Whether it&rsquo;s boarding it up, whether it&rsquo;s fixing it up and getting new tenants in, all of that is brought to the table before demolition is performed,&rdquo; he said.<br />&nbsp;<br />Asiaha Butler is the founder of Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.) She said her organization works with the 7th district often.<br /><br />&ldquo;I know the CAPS officers,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re doing a lot of great work. I don&rsquo;t know how strategic the plans are overall [that I] can say is making a huge impact on the community.&rdquo;<br /><br />Butler is a property owner on a block with very few neighbors. She doesn&rsquo;t like to see demolitions.<br /><br />&ldquo;But at the same time you don&rsquo;t want to have havens where people can do criminal activity,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I definitely see a fast track of the demolishing of buildings. I don&rsquo;t necessarily see a fast track in curing the criminal activity that&rsquo;s happening there.&rdquo;</p><p>She said there needs to be more collaboration among residents, police and organizations for a plan to work.<br /><br />&ldquo;The city said they&rsquo;re gonna do this, but we on the block know that something else needs to happen,&rdquo; she said.<br /><br />Butler said part of that is getting people to invest in properties in the community. She&rsquo;s hopeful that the market <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/residents-city-tackle-problems-around-vacant-homes-and-lots-107825" target="_blank">is slowly turning around</a>.<br /><br />In another part of Englewood, litter collects against some abandoned chairs in a large empty lot. A family that lives across the street is just arriving home.</p><p>A 19-year-old resident who didn&rsquo;t want to give his real name said to call him Big Homie. He says new streetlights and more secured buildings make his block feel safer.<br /><br />He remembers his uncle living in the house across the street before it was demolished. He points out a large boarded up apartment building on the block.<br /><br />&ldquo;It was a good place at one point, but the gangs took over,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But it&rsquo;s done now. They boarded everything up.&rdquo;</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></p> Tue, 25 Jun 2013 15:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/city-tackles-crime-demolitions-107840 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