New 53rd Street SSA starts with a wish list

Herald Intern

Researching future programs proved the main subject at the third monthly meeting for the commissioners of the Special Service Area No. 61 for Hyde Park, last Wednesday, June 25. Potential projects include adding a free trolley to run throughout the SSA footprint, starting an urban garden and branding the neighborhood.

Though discussions of the trolley have just begun, the trolley is proposed to run on an ongoing basis, beginning at 53rd or 55th streets, according to Eric E. Reaves, SSA director and South East Chicago Commission (SECC) program manager. Reaves is working with trolley companies to establish prices for a potential route.

“Really, where we are at this point is gathering information,” said Michael McGarry, SSA chair and president of Hyde Park Bank, 1525 E. 53rd St.

McGarry and Reaves have also been laying the groundwork for a partnership with the Gary Comer Youth Center (GCYC), an organization that supports high school students by providing extracurricular programming.

“It’s a great facility, great program, they use youth to grow these herbs and flowers,” Reaves said. “So one of the ideas is for next year, or the end of this year, is to purchase planters, and get the Gary Comer garden program to fill the planters.”

McGarry suggested GCYC grow tulips, while Reaves suggested they grow flowers for the baskets on 53rd and 55th streets or plant herbs for nearby restaurants. However, Mary Rogel, SSA secretary and founder of East Point Associates, 1525 E. 53rd St. No. 705, noted that city pollution would make growing herbs difficult.

“I spent one summer last year going around Hyde Park and looking for edibles, and one of the things I discovered is when there’s traffic, there is pollution like you wouldn’t believe,” Rogel said.

The SSA is also working on branding the neighborhood. Late last week, Reaves and SECC Executive Director Wendy Walker Williams met with two branding companies, whose names could not be disclosed, according to Reaves.

“We want everything to kind of look nice and together, the garbage cans, the flowers, and to make the street look very alive,” McGarry said. “It all kind of falls into the branding.”

The next SSA Hyde Park meeting will take place at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 23, at the Hyatt Place, 5225 S. Harper Ave.