By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
Big changes are coming to Parkway Gardens.
The management of the Woodlawn complex announced several sweeping changes at the development, hoping to stop crime and improve the quality of life for residents.
It’s a promise Related Management made during an upbeat resident’s association meeting at Parkway Gardens on Thursday, April 27. Residents cheered as Related announced several initiatives that gave tenants hope at a time when shootings and crime plague the neighborhood.
The initiatives include an eight-foot fence around the complex and a hi-tech video surveillance system that will be monitored around the clock.
Residents were also pleased to hear that a new summer camp will be offered in conjunction with the Chicago Park District. About 200 youths from Parkway Gardens and nearby Dulles Elementary School will be able to participate in the program.
Related Management recently refinished the basketball courts at Dulles and built a football field at the school. The company also said that a computer was set up in the management office to enable Parkway Gardens youth to sign up for the One Summer Chicago program.
Invitations were also issued for the Parkway Gardens youth to participate this summer in MAPSCorps, a program for aspiring doctors and scientists.
The news comes as the Chicago Crusader included Parkway Gardens in its “Heroes in Hood” program, which honors volunteers and promotes community activism in underserved neighborhoods.
But the biggest news Parkway Gardens received was about the sweeping security measures that are designed to keep out crime. Related Management said it will erect an eight-ft fence around the complex and will limit pedestrian access to five entrances along King Drive. Residents who walk to their units will have a special key fob to open gates that lead to their homes.
Residents trying to access the complex with vehicles will have a special sticker that will open a gate and close it after they pass through. Non-residents with vehicles must pass through a 24-hour guardhouse and must be approved before entering the Parkway Gardens complex. The guardhouse will be directly connected to the complex’s security control center.
The entrance at Calumet will also be closed to residents and will only be open for youth walking to school and during police and fire emergencies, said Don Biernacki, vice president of Related Midwest.
Surveillance cameras will be installed throughout the complex and will be constantly monitored by security officials. Finkle, President of Related Investments said the firm will hire a security director for Parkway Gardens, the only position of its kind out of 200 properties the firm manages across the country.
Some of the changes have already been made. Floodlights have been installed throughout the complex, but Biernacki said more are on the way, to ensure that there are no dark areas in the complex where someone can hide and make residents feel uncomfortable and unsafe.
“We all want to feel safe in our homes and so we’re here today to do what we can with your assistance to make those changes,” Biernacki said. “The physical changes and improvements we’ll make are a part of the solution. The solution is right here- all of us working together.”
At the meeting, Finkel said crime at Parkway Gardens had reached a point where he was unable to sleep at night. While he praised the new changes that will be implemented at the complex, Finkle urged residents to report incidents to police and management.
“We can’t change the world. We can’t change the entire neighborhood, but we can change what goes on in Parkway Gardens and hopefully the nearby area,”Finkle said. “We need everybody’s help. Everybody needs to say something. You can’t tolerate the bad stuff that goes on. I know it’s hard and I know people are afraid because of retaliation, but we’re going to work on that.”