• SoSideN4Hope

1Woodlawn Community Meeting Presents Ideas for Woodlawn's Future.

Updated: Dec 3, 2018

Flyer for the 1Woodlawn Community Meeting

On Thursday, November 15, the 1Woodlawn Organization held its Stakeholder and Community meetings to brief the Woodlawn community on progress in the multi-year community-based initiative of planning for the future of Woodlawn. Per the 1Woodlawn website, the goal is: “Join us in helping Woodlawn become a Community of Choice.”

Three- to four-hundred people attended the 1Woodlawn community meeting at Woodlawn’s Apostolic Church of God. The meeting agenda was focused on three main topics:

Progress of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) (Mike Strautmanis, Director of Civic Engagement)

Woodlawn Land Development Strategy: How the Redevelopment is being planned (Rev Brazier)

Defining the Woodlawn Development Narrative: What do we want Woodlawn to become? (Byron Brazier II)

Progress of the OPC

Rev. Dr. Byron Brazier opened the meeting with full-throated support for the Obama Presidential Center and welcomed his friend, Mike Strautmanis who presented a status report on the OPC and the process of public meetings that has informed the final plan. He explained the arrangement whereby the construction and ongoing operations and maintenance of the OPC will be fully funded by the Foundation but the OPC campus buildings will be given to the City of Chicago, thus open to the people of Chicago in the form of public parkland. He informed attendees of the unanimous vote of approval by the City Council and expressed confidence in successfully completing the two remaining reviews that require Federal approval – Federal Environmental Review (DEPA) and the Federal Historical Review, per Section 106.

Strautmanis also introduced the Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative, a coalition of South Side leaders that are addressing, “from the bottom up”, such issues as housing, and economic and community development. He also emphasized OPC’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in job training and employment and explained the role of Lakeside Alliance in managing construction contracts for the OPC -- 35% to be set aside for minority firms and 10% for women-owned companies.

Strautmanis did not directly address the demands for a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) but urged everyone to visit the Obama Foundations page on Community Commitments. Much like the final design of the Center, this agreement was forged from numerous discussions with community groups. The statement reflects what the Obama Foundation believes it has control to implement or influence working with the City and south side communities. He concluded his presentation confident that the OPC would break ground in 2019 and with a rousing assurance of, “We’re coming!”

Woodlawn Land Development Strategy: How the Redevelopment is being planned (Rev Brazier, Chris Brewer from AECom)

Chris Brewer, an economist with AECom, presented the results of a community demographic analysis commissioned by 1Woodlawn. This analysis provides a basis upon which a land development strategy for Woodlawn can be formed. The study examines real estate use, land vacancy rates, abandoned buildings, property and land values, and demographics in the four quadrants of Woodlawn. The study presented the context for Woodlawn having the fifth largest population growth in the city since 2010, the forth largest growth in employment, and the largest volume in total City Permits, mostly issued for renovations in the area. Acknowledging that these gains were made from a very low base, he was bullish on the future desirably of Woodlawn as a thriving lake-side residential neighborhood.

Dr Brazier then spoke about the strategy behind a Woodlawn Development and Building Plan, which has been three years in formation. Noting that Woodlawn’s population had dropped from 96,000 to 24,000, it’s purpose, he said, is “control over displacement”. He said the means for doing this include:

1. Aggregate with developers and rehabbers over the development of vacant land and abandoned or derelict buildings;

2. Securing major investment funding;

3. Implement a project management process for community development that mirrors the scope and scale used for large City public projects; and

4. Create a community support system to help residents maintain and improve their properties through grant based assistant programs and the development of home-owners associations.

Key points that Dr. Brazier emphasized included: “If we don't do this, someone else will.” and, “A community is better able to reconcile (it’s) different interests.” When a member of the audience questioned the process, Dr. Brazier invited the speaker to sign up and become a member of the planning group: “It’s not a closed opportunity. Anyone can sign up to be a member of the planning group.”

Dr. Brazierclosed by saying the plan was in formation before the Obama Presidential Center came to Jackson Park and whatever happens with the future OPC, the plan for Woodlawn will go ahead. “We can’t let anyone else define our destiny.”

Defining the Woodlawn Development Narrative: What do we want Woodlawn to become?

Byron Brazier II, Dr. Brazier’s son and COO of the Brazier Foundation, spoke about using social media platforms as a planning tool, to develop the public narrative about the revitalization of Woodlawn, and to connect the community in “real time” to information and decision making. He outlined the “operational pillars” of development and how these are envisaged to be incorporated into the future of Woodlawn:

1. Tourism

2. Entertainment

3. International Integration (communications and transport)

4. Diversity Management (economic diversity)

5. Walkability Map, created via “mapping” software, to link destinations within the four quadrants of Woodlawn to plan their develop in tandem.

Another idea described was an ambitious plan to coordinate the use of various social media platforms  to create a “real time” communications and decision making systems where everyone has access to the same information, at the same time. Proposed for development across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, the system could be used to actively and immediately inform community members of what is happening or involve them in discussion and decision making.  A test version of the system is proposed for early 2019.

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