Kenwood-Hyde Park native named CEO of development collaborative that has close ties with the Obama Presidential Center
By SAMANTHA SMYLIE
Ghian Foreman was recently named Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative. He will focus on housing, workforce development, and commercial corridor developments in South Shore, Woodlawn, and Washington Park.
Born and raised in Kenwood and Hyde Park, Forman attended McDade Elementary school in Chatham, graduated from Whitney Young High School, received an undergraduate degree from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), and an MBA from the University of Chicago.
During an interview with the Herald, Forman recounted how he got his start in real estate, “When I was at Florida A&M, I brought a house my freshman year. I really had an experience with real estate before that because my parents owned a building. So, I became the de facto janitor of the building. My parents would give me that as my weekly chores.”
Before being selected as CEO of Emerald South, Foreman was Executive Director of Greater Southwest Development Corporation (GSDC). This is where he had the opportunity to work with communities that resembled the one that he grew up in and work directly with community members through existing local community organizations, like Southwest Organizing Projects (SWOP).
“We put in a district Wi-Fi program, where there is free Wi-Fi along the commercial corridor of 63rd and Western all the way until 63rd and St. Louis. We built a domestic violence shelter. Sen. Dick Durbin, Mayor Emanuel and Vice President Joe Biden, at the time, came to the groundbreaking as well as. Those were one of the highlights,” Foreman said as he described his successes at GSDC.
As a community member, investor and his past experience at GSDC, in his new role, Foreman hopes to use assets in the community to deal with problems that community members in Woodlawn, South Shore, and Washington Park face.
Some of those issues, according to Foreman, include “vacant storefronts. We have vacant land. We have crime. We have fears – whether they are real or perceived – of gentrification.”
Foreman acknowledges that members of the communities are worried about someone new coming into the community and developing the area without community input.
“People are afraid of someone who is not in the community coming in and saying: ‘everything that exists here today we are going to erase it and wipe it clean and build something brand new.’ I think my number one job will be to listen and identify where we can make good things better and where there are deficiencies,” Forman said.
However, his plans to bring together community members from Washington Park, Woodlawn, and South Shore and other institutions invested in the development around Jackson Park to work collaboratively are vague at the moment.
Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative has close ties to the Obama Presidential Center (OPC). Due to the recent lawsuit by Protect Our Parks, there is no way to know if or when OPC will be constructed or if it will be constructed in Jackson Park.
Also, during the local election cycle, voters on the South Side voted in favor of a community benefits agreement, or CBA, in relation to the Obama Presidential Center. Ald.-Elect Jennette Taylor (20th) is a strong proponent for a CBA agreement to protect working-class community members from being displaced from their communities and provide jobs in the community.
When asked if his plans were contingent on the building of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, he changed the question and said: “I’m making the assumption that the Obama Center is going into Jackson Park. I think that development is going to take place in our community. This is what communities have been planning with or without the Obama Center. We have the support of the Obama Center, as the city is going through the lawsuit as it relates to Jackson Park. Emerald South and those three community areas absolutely have the support. As a community, we are going to grow. ”