CBA-City Colleges Bus Tour Provides Insight on Economic Development Opportunities in 6th and 8th Wards
by Lesley R. Chinn
With business construction popping up on the south west corner of 87th and Cottage Grove in the 6th Ward to a construction of a new South Shore High School on 76th and Jeffery in the 8th Ward, Aldermen Freddrenna Lyle and Michelle Harris concluded that there is a need for more economic development opportunities in their respective wards.
Through a partnership between the Chatham Business Association (CBA) and City Colleges of Chicago, a bus tour was hosted throughout the two wards last Friday to get some insight into what areas need to be tapped into for economic growth and job opportunities.
This tour, which somewhat mimicked one that the CBA hosted in partnership with Congressman Bobby Rush of the First Congressional District about two years ago, stopped between areas from 71st Street to 95th Street from State Street to Jeffrey.
“We have quite a few businesses in the area…and we want to have that partnership where the businesses can work with our young people and develop the entrepreneurial skills and create a corridor so that it represents the businesses that are here,” said Melinda Kelly, CBA executive director.
Several properties——including a tall vacant building on the southeast corner of 78th and Cottage Grove; the former site of Kennedy-King College on 68th and Wentworth; and the former site of Stony Island Food Market on 83rd and Stony Island——were just some of the sites just to name a few that the tour highlighted that had possibilities for potential redevelopment.
While there is a plethora of nail shops, fast food establishments, liquor stores, gas stations, grocery stores, and dollar stores, which are predominately not Black-owned, some of the tour attendees expressed concerns for more variety of businesses that they would like to see in the community.
“Years ago, there were Black-owned family businesses up-and-down these arterial streets, but when the malls came in, they closed down, but recently we’ve seen a lot of young people coming back going into business and it’s a very positive thing,” said Ald. Lyle.
Ald. Lyle suggested to the CBA that it would benefit them greatly if they could obtain copies of city business licenses. From there, she then explained to them that letters should be sent to these owners about their concerns about how business should be done in the community and how certain actions impact the neighborhood and business districts.
“They need to know that it is not acceptable so that it just won’t be me and Ald. (Michelle Harris) fighting this battle,” said Lyle, while speaking of a new development that will take place on the southwest corner of 87th and Cottage Grove.
Some business leaders and CBA
members then asked what types of businesses will the community support. In response, Lyle said that businesses like Target and Nike are suitable choices, however, she later said that they could work hand-in-hand with smaller businesses without completing shutting them down.
But before anything has to be built and depending upon the size of the new construction, Lyle and Harris said that the community is landlocked and other properties have to be torn down in some cases just to get started. They said that it is costing some of these businesses not to come here.
As the tour continued to 95th Street, Harris updated CBA members and other business supporters about development opportunities that included a charter school on 95th and Cottage Grove operated by Trinity United Church of Christ. She said that while Trinity is currently using the facility that was a previous site for the House of Kicks amusement park, they are planning to build a charter school from the ground up to expand. However, she did not specify a location, but did reiterate that the Trinity needs a building for expansion.
Embedded near a primarily residential community near East 93rd Street near Kenwood, Harris gave an update on A. Finkle and Company which is currently in a rehab process. It is a steel company based in the Lincoln Park community that produced products for Chrysler Durango. Currently, they have 350 employees, but when they move into the community, an additional 150 jobs will be created, according to Harris.
City Colleges Chancellor Wayne Watson said he wants to start off with the Chatham area for the partnership before starting with other communities in Chicago for redevelopment and job opportunities.
“Our interest is to work with the Chatham Business Association to identify the needs of the business community of Chatham and its citizens. We want to be one of the stakeholders that will help the Chatham business community redefine itself to enhance its business opportunities.”