By LINDSAY WELBERS
The South East Chicago Commission had a productive year, said Executive Director Wendy Walker Williams.
The SECC in the previous year focused on the Violent Crime Prevention Initiative. The VPCI used grant funding to create a safety task force to work with the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy, or CAPS program. The task force brought local businesses to share information with police. The VPCI also funded beautification efforts and encouraged artistic work for area youth. It also helped to back up the Building Code Enforcement Program.
Williams said the decision was made for the second year in a row to focus on a “shop local” initiative instead of a winter festival.
“This year we focused on shopping local, so we did a big shop local push in Hyde Park” Williams said. The campaign encouraged holiday shoppers to spend at least $100 of their planned spending in the neighborhood. Shoppers who spent at least $5 in certain stores were eligible to enter a drawing for an iPad. Williams said over 500 people entered that drawing.
The two festivals that did happen, the Celebrate Hyde Park Summer Music Festival and Oktoberfest, featured musical acts Roy Ayers and Average White Band. More than 60,000 people and hundreds of vendors came from across the neighborhood for the two festivals. The Oktoberfest included a hayride, petting zoo and beer tent.
“The festivals are just one item on a very long to-do list,” Williams said.
That list is about to grow longer, as the SECC takes a more active role in burnishing the neighborhood’s image through a new business advocacy initiative.
The Business Development Improvement Plan (BDI) is funded by a memorandum of understanding between the City of Chicago and the University of Chicago to help foster economic development in the neighborhood. The SECC, as a city delegate agency, oversees the plan. The university has committed to spend $750,000 over three years towards this plan. Currently the BDI is in the planning stage, but funds will be used to create a better streetscape in Hyde Park. Streetscape improvements will likely include improved lighting, planters, trash cans, signs, banners and other improvements.