This week on SSW Radio we talked with South Side native Lena Waithe about her show The Chi; checked in on community developments in Woodlawn, South Shore, and Jackson Park; and highlighted the personal histories of three South Side women
I‘m so proud to be here. You’re all an inspiration to me.”
The University of Chicago announced on January 26 that over the course of this year, the nonprofit South East Chicago Commission (SECC) will gain considerable independence from the university. Much of the SECC’s university funding will be cut, and the university will no longer be able to appoint or approve the organization’s board members. According to both parties, the move reflects the SECC’s need to reevaluate its direction as an organization.
Last November, when William and Jacqueline Lynch moved their art gallery into the recently reopened Strand Apartments on 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, they were unaware of their new building’s historical import. “I did know about the Grand Ballroom down the street,” said William. “I didn’t know anything about this building.”
Just over a thousand feet south of the Museum of Science and Industry sits Jackson Park’s Wooded Island. In April of 2015, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), in partnership with the Chicago Park District, began an $8.1 million restoration of Jackson Park. USACE falls under the purview of the Department of Defense, and builds military facilities, civil engineering projects, and other public works. This restoration project means Wooded Island could be closed for as long as five years until 2020—sad news, since the site is home to the popular Osaka Gardens and acts as both a birdwatcher’s paradise and local fishing spot.
“Housing poor people isn’t the problem,” Bill Eager says, “good property management is the problem.”
It is no secret that Washington Park and Woodlawn have seen better days. Economic depression and consistently declining populations since the 1970s have led to collective downturn. Currently, the neighborhoods are caught in the crossroads of the lingering memory of a thriving local culture and middle class and the issue of how exactly revival can be effectively stoked. Two newly fashioned courses point to answers: one fostered by communal organizations of both neighborhoods, and the other led by the University of Chicago.
One block south of the Cottage Grove Green Line station, the history and the future of Chicago music converge. Woodlawn’s Grand Ballroom, known as the Loeffler Building in earlier years, has played host to some of the greats of American jazz—Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, and Charlie Parker, to name a few. Today the building leases ground-floor space to the two-year-old Coltrane Conservatory of the Arts, a jazz school founded and run by Joe Pace III. Continue reading