King overviews development projects at Kenwood town hall

As MacKenzie Thurman, director of communications and policy for the 5th Ward, sits on the floor and monitors an image projector, Ald. Sophia King discusses a number of development projects in the ward, either under construction or being proposed for construction, during a Town Hall Meeting in the Little Theater of Kenwood Academy High School. (Photo by Marc Monaghan)

Staff Writer

Ald. Sophia King (4th) announced the development of neighborhood advisory committees and a developmental community trust at a town hall meeting Monday night in Kenwood. She also discussed some specific developments, though she said more detail would be forthcoming in subsequent meetings.

King said her office plans to start communicating to constituents by community area and will establish quarterly meeting advisory committees within them, with subcommittees for issues including infrastructure, economic development, safety and education. King’s office said the committees are still in planning and that interested parties should contact them in the meantime.

She said that her office is now having regular meetings with the police, saying she has been looking after the three district commanders within the 4th Ward, praising 2nd District Commander Dion Boyd for his performance since taking over last summer. Presenting 2018 crime figures, King said that crime has gone down while stops have increased, acknowledging the balance between stops and patrols and maintaining civil liberties — she said neither is mutually exclusive.

Regarding development, King said her office is discussing the creation of a community land trust with GN Bank, which is headquartered in Bronzeville, wherein vacant lots would be sold for a dollar to nonprofit organizations that would build developments. “Then that money would stay in the community,” King said. “We’re not adverse to developers developing, but we want to make sure that money stays in the community first and we harness the equity that’s in the land.”

King’s office later said the proposal was in preliminary development, with no detail or funding sources identified. The Herald has requested further information from GN Bank.

King said a meeting to reveal her Michael Reese site advisory committee’s report is forthcoming but previewed the plan, cautioning that it is still conceptual. It includes affordable apartments on 35th Street, market-rate housing, a senior’s pavilion with views of Lake Michigan, parkland with an amphitheater and a science and business incubator. She said the developer will be expected to have 68 percent minority hiring.

Additional developments in Hyde Park–Kenwood under discussion include a 34-unit, four-story market rate complex at 1400 E. Hyde Park Blvd., a renovation of the Piccadilly Building, 1443 E. Hyde Park Blvd., and a six-unit, four-story building on the 5100 South block of Kenwood Avenue.

The former Shiloh Baptist Church, 4840 S. Dorchester Ave., will be turned into 13 townhomes with a preserved facade, and a renovation is planned at the Blackstone Branch of the Chicago Public Library, 4904 S. Lake Park Ave., with foundation repairs and a big renovation of its interior.

Regarding infrastructure, a beautification effort is planned at the 47th Street and Lake Shore Drive intersection, with new lighting and paint at the viaduct by Lake Park Avenue, new sidewalks and a new left turn signal. Dog parks are planned at 42nd Street and Vincennes Avenue and Lake Park Avenue and Oakwood Boulevard in Bronzeville.

Asked about concerns about displacement stemming from the planned Obama Presidential Center, King said that most concerns were south of the 4th Ward but stressed the importance of building community trust and maintaining local control ahead of development.

“It’s kind of one of these bittersweet things,” King said, “where you want this development to come in, but you want it to come in the right way. And I think you use that as an opportunity to understand what kind of affordability you can have in the community. With all those [empty] city lots, you can do that.” She said the Michael Reese work was done with a redevelopment agreement that she said was binding upon the developers.

King said all communities in her ward, which spans the lakefront from South Loop to Hyde Park–Kenwood, share concerns about safety, schools, economic development, traffic, parking and engagement.

“No matter who the next mayor is, these are what I think their priorities should be,” she said. “I’d like a mayor who understands strategy working with and encountering a strong City Council as well as one who understands that when you’ve got a budget that big, you’ve got a diverse city that’s 70 percent black and brown people, that you’ve got to empower communities, otherwise you’re going to get these ‘alternative economies’ that go on,” implying underground, illicit economic activities.