Recently, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to develop more than 20,000 new homes on Chicago’s south lakefront at the site of the shuttered U.S. Steel plant, which has laid waste for more nearly three decades. Though the projected cost of the project has yet to be announced, it is expected to run in the hundreds of millions of dollars—this, on top of the redevelopment of the Jackson Park Golf Course, the Obama Presidential Center, the Michael Reese Project, and other investments already underway in this predominantly African-American section of the city.
With billions of dollars of investment pouring in South Shore and neighboring communities of Washington Park, Woodlawn and Chat- ham, an independent network of high-powered stakeholders has emerged to ensure local residents have shared governance and ownership in all aspects of the neighborhood’s revival.
South Shore Works is the brainchild of Carol L. Adams, Ph.D. The coalition is comprised of some of the neighborhood’s top leaders in the fields of urban planning, economic development, technology, education, social services, civil rights, public safety, the arts, youth development, as well as health care, philanthropy, legislation and public policy. Anchored by umbrella organizations such as the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, the Planning Coalition, ABJ Community Services and the Black United Fund of Illinois, the consortium is working to finalize a strategic plan that has been underway for several months.
“We don’t see ourselves being in the audience watching hundreds of million dollars’ worth of development going on around us and we have no say,” said Adams, a sociologist who served as a secretary for the Illinois Department of Human Services. “This is a movement. We are demanding a seat at the table. For us that means meaningful participation in the forms of contracting and business opportunities, jobs and significant investment in the untapped South Shore workforce.”
“When you hear that South Shore is rising we don’t just think in terms of buildings and facilities—we are talking about the people who live and work there,” said Adams. “We’re here to make sure our homegrown talent is acknowledged, supported and have full participation in the boon coming to the South Side. We are here to say we won’t be locked out of our own growth and development. We are here to say that those who have been marginalized and pushed out of opportunity have a place here.”
South Shore Works will hold another community wide organizing summit this fall on the heels of a successful gathering this past spring.