By CHRISTOPHER AMATI
A representative of Next Street, an organizational consulting firm, gave a presentation outlining a proposal for a new organization to “drive and manage the growth” seen as coming to the neighborhoods of South Shore, Woodlawn and Washington Park in the wake of the construction of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) during the monthly 5 Ward Meeting Thursday, March 9, at 6 p.m. at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr.
This as-yet unnamed organization is envisioned as a way to “encourage growth on the south side” and “tap into the urgency and the energy of these times,” according to Charisse C. Johnson of Next Street, who presented the proposal with the support of Ald. Leslie Hairston’s (5th) Chief of Staff Kim Webb. Investment and involvement in the community, an assessment of each neighborhood’s strengths and needs and “growth without displacement” were some of the ideas and concepts mentioned.
“We hope to coordinate growth,” Johnson said.
She said, “convergence of economic action,” taking advantage of investment opportunities was very important. She also said working with existing local organizations was part of the strategy.
“We need to tap into the talent that resides in the neighborhoods,” Johnson said.
She said cultivating growth that benefits those areas was important to the effort. She said the nascent organization has received support from the Chicago Community Trust and an OPC board member promised to be a part of this new effort.
Johnson emphasized that they are still in the implementation planning stage and said that ongoing community engagement is a vital part of the organizational effort.
At the end of the presentation those who attended were asked to take a short online survey using their cell phones. The survey questions dealt with hopes for future community achievement, strengths and needs of the communities and what areas most need to be addressed.
The next meeting will take place at the 8th Annual Woodlawn Community Summit on Saturday, March 18, at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, 969 E. 60th St., from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to seek community input on starting the new community and economic development organization. It will feature Michael Strautmanis, vice president of civic engagement for the Obama Foundation, and Joanna Trotter, senior program officer for The Chicago Community Trust.