Community building can be engineered
in a variety of different ways. Some
involve the actual construction of buildings, renovations, enhancements and
others are more connected to development of tradition or creation of events. In this article we look at two recent efforts
in the region to build, maintain and strengthen Chicago community.
The first example is what is happening
in Vernon Hills with the Hawthorn Mall property. Centennial Real Estate is preparing to begin
its $6.2 million revamp of the center court. The goal is to construct a multi-use “central
park” environment. This will involve a
complete transformation of the area, hopefully in time for the holiday shopping
It is hoped that this space will feature: coffee store/wine bar; two treelike
sculptures; lounges on upper level and more, resulting in a “sophisticated
parklike experience,” that is “interactive, engaging [and suitable] for all
Uplifting a neighborhood and providing new experiences for the youth and other demographics is another way of building community. A recent example of this is the partnership between the 8000 Euclid block club and My Block My Hood My City. According to 8000 Euclid Block Club Founder and President, Pam Bilal, these organizations can really result in a bolstering of a city. She said:
“In a diverse city like Chicago with a lot of segregation, often times people like to stay in their own little pocket and just take care of themselves. And we want people to understand that it’s not about the little man, it’s about the community. And we want to have a vibrant, exciting, financially stable community. So that’s why we start block clubs.”
to 100 percent clean energy is not only great for the environment but is also a
very good business decision. This is probably
why “the world’s most influential companies [are] committed to 100
renewable energy.” Chicago has now
followed suit, becoming the nation’s “largest city” to make this commitment.
What this means is that the 2.7 million inhabitants will be subject to clean and
renewable energy in all buildings by 2035 and by 2040 all 1,850 CTA buses
will be electrified.
R2019-157 a transition plan has been codified. Thus by the end of next year
a timeline and milestones will be put in place.
Locals have been very involved in this endeavor which, according to Jobs
to Move America (Illinois) Campaign Director Kassie Byer is “integral to its
future success.” She said:
“The Chicago Collective who wrote this resolution, proves that not only can Chicago build a climate-safe future for next generations, but that a truly just transition also creates good, family-sustaining jobs.”
in Bronzeville positive effects are being felt thanks to ComEd. The Beethoven
Elementary School has a pathway that is now lit up thanks to off-grid lights
powered by renewable energy! ComEd
installed the 30-feet tall RPUs via mini power plants which do not connect to
the electric grid. Instead they get
their energy from battery storage, solar panels and wind turbine and are
manufactured by ARIS Renewable Energy.
Illinois is increasingly moving toward solar power for its energy sources. The costs of the equipment used is significantly lower and the state of Illinois is so encouraging of the transition, that it offers many attractive incentives to move over.
One of the most popular solar markets today in Illinois are those that are in conjunction with farmers. In these cases, the farmers benefit too. They lease the solar companies some of their property which is used to cultivate solar energy and they get money for this as it is in place of crop growing.
The agrarians are needed to facilitate this process as they are the ones lining up the solar panels in the most efficient way to absorb the sun’s rays. The energy then gets transported to the closest power substation, being absorbed into the power supply. Ultimately this is a good business deal for landowners and solar companies.
Within Chicago itself, a recent statement given by the Sierra Club promised that they will be conjoining into a “new community coalition working to move Chicago to a 100 percent clean, renewable energy future. The Club’s Ready for 100 Action Campaign organizer Krya Woods added:
“The Ready for 100 Chicago Collective stands ready to advocate for bold policy that will bring the greatest economic, environmental, and social benefit to communities across Chicago. A new energy economy can create jobs, save money through energy efficiency and phasing out fossil fuel, and empower our residents to participate in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of strategies that will most effectively address our communities’ needs. We are here to address how we power this city and who has power in this city.”
The Chicago Conversion Project – an endeavor established by World Business Chicago, Safer Foundation, Manufacturing Renaissance, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL) – at the end of July completed its business plan.
The goal is to “help retain Chicago’s industrial base by arranging the acquisition of manufacturing companies through ownership succession by groups of employees and High Road entrepreneurs, particularly African-American and Hispanic men and women.”
It is hoped that the collaboration will be able to help the transition process and identify target firms. Each of the organizations can access different networks and comes with unique skills.
For the community and economy in Chicago, this project provides a wonderful opportunity for growth.
Another group – the Chicagoland Cooperative Ecosystem – recently approached the Commission for its support of a 3 year pilot program that would encourage the development of worker owned cooperatives. According to Vice Chair of the Commission Marc Lane:
“These efforts are all driven by the notion that when employees, particularly disadvantaged populations, become owners of businesses, that will lift them out of poverty. They’ll be given a stake in the venture, self-respect and training that they otherwise wouldn’t have had.”
WeWork is going green. At least for lunch. Miguel McKelvey, one of the organization’s co-founders said the following as part of his explanation as to why WeWork’s Summer Camp retreat would not be serving any meat/poultry/port at events:
“New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact, even more than switching to a hybrid car.”
Starbucks also seems to be on a similar green track, in its recent announcement to get rid of plastic straws from its stores. According to VP of Communications and Engagement at the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Jennifer Caddick, it is important for people to speak out, as it is those voices that “encourages industry to make changes.” At the beginning of 2018 Shedd Aquarium, the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Illinois Council issued a joint resolution on a ban of plastic micro-beads from personal-care products. Manufacturers got on board even before the federal law came into play and the hope is that the same will be true for plastic straws.
Following the hurricane that ravaged Puerto Rico, Chicago is anticipating welcoming a huge amount of inhabitants from the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. Already the region has taken in over 1,500 individuals but many more are planning to follow suit.
And this might not be temporary. According to Puerto Rican-born US Rep Luis Gutierrez, D-Chicago, just like Houston accepted Hurricane Katrina’s New Orleaneans, Chicago could do the same. They might end up moving to Chicago permanently.
As such, the city is getting prepared. As Gutierrez pointed out, nothing has been put in place and there are already more than 1,500 extra people. What needs to happen is to accommodate these individuals with education, health and social services, since “if you’re going to be a sanctuary city, you’ve got to offer sanctuary.”
At this point, hundreds of thousands are expected to permanently leave the island in search of a new home and stable life, with “certainly thousands” choosing Chicago given its welcoming reputation and large Latino community.
It seems that sometimes the things you should see most are most easy to miss, at least according to Amy Bizzarri who just published her book 111 Places in Chicago That You Must Not Miss. While going through treatment for breast cancer, she found many places – 111 to be exact – that are “must-sees” in Chicago.
Many of these places are very “easy to miss,” like Hero Coffee Bar, located at 22 E. Jackson Boulevard. Bizzarri says she just loves watching people “come across it for the first time.”
Bizzarri did her research together with Photographer Susie Inverso and the two of them found a whole slew of “beautiful, funky, delicious, unusual, off-kilter, unique, and truly wonderful places for this new guidebook.”
In an attempt to help Chicagoans save money on energy bills, the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) joined forces with ComEd and the Illinois Commerce Commission and the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Educating the public on how to save money from their energy bills, the first piece of advice was to invest in a smart thermostat.
A recent announcement was made by these organizations that a new incentive will be put into place, giving customers an immediate rebate for the purchase of a smart thermostat which can be programmed to automatically adjust to specific living arrangements. In other words, instead of having the air conditioner on 24/7, the thermostat will raise a few degrees while you’re out of the house and lower, just before you return.
It’s not just a smart thermostat that will do this. smartphones and (Amazon) Alexa will do the same job. But the advantage of a smart thermostat is that they actually figure out how to adapt to their users’ behavior, identify patterns and thereafter manage heating and cooling systems which will significantly reduce energy costs.
A serious renovation has just begun at Humboldt Park. Piet Oudolf – who was behind the very successful upgrade of Millennium Park’s Lurie Garden – was chosen by the Chicago Park District, the Chicago Park Foundation and the Garden Conservancy to lead the Jens Jensen Formal Garden restoration project. This will involve an overhaul of the decaying infrastructure and a re-invigoration of the design features, paralleling Jensen’s infamous Prairie style. Part of what Oudolf will incorporate is a “durable” design, containing Chicago’s seasons. The Hitchcock Design Group has been commissioned as design coordinator, so that the end result will be the creation of a “community of plants that work well together and look beautiful throughout the seasons.”
For those who want to enjoy the fun parts of Chicago’s parks, the summer is the perfect time to start. Earlier this month saw the start of Night Out in the Parks, marking Ellis Park’s fifth summer season of performances and interactive shows. Featuring around 1,200 events, there will be something for each of Chicago’s 77 community areas. And within the bounds of community spirit, 125 local artists and art organizations will be participating in these shows, most of which are free.
Meanwhile, to mark its 90th birthday, representatives from the Chicago Park District were at Grant Park turning on the Buckingham Fountain. Participating in the celebratory event were both the Brookfield Zoo and the Shedd Aquarium. In addition, those who want to memorialize the 90th birthday forever, can purchase a 1,000 pound chunk of marble for a mere $22,000….plus $299 shipping! Get in touch with Stuart Grannen of Architectural Artifacts for more details.