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Hyde Park Year in Review: What Had Locals Talking in 2014

By Sam Cholke | December 30, 2014 7:17am
 Over the last year, the south lakefront saw rampant speculation about the Obama library, quarrels over closing Dyett High School, fights to find a tenant for the city's last empty Dominick's storefront, huge investments in Jackson Park and debate over how the University of Chicago police should be policed.
Hyde Park Year in Review 2014
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HYDE PARK — By this time next year, the neighborhood could be preparing to be home to the first presidential library in Chicago, have a new grocery store and a lot closer to a thriving natural habitat in Jackson Park.

1. The Obama Library Fight: Some locals spent much of 2014 speculating over where the University of Chicago, the presumed frontrunner in a four-way race to land the Barack Obama presidential library, would put the landmark if they win the bid. In December, a list of locations leaked in May was confirmed, including Washington Park, the South Shore Cultural Center and Jackson Park. Washington Park rose to the top of the list for some because the university has bought more than $18 million in property near the park in the last six years. Speculation also favored Jackson Park, which attracted more than $18 million in improvements in the last year.

2. Big Plans For Jackson Park: Parks advocates saw the South Side’s second largest park turn a corner over the last year. Volunteers were able to focus less on the public sex and drugs in the park and more on planning for a $10 million visitors center from Project 120. The Army Corps of Engineers quickly followed the building project plans with its own to invest $8.1 million in restoring habitat across the park.

3. South Shore's Grocery Store Battle: South Shore struggled to fill its vacant Dominick’s after the grocery chain shuttered its Chicago locations and Whole Foods, Mariano’s and other grocers snapped up the empty storefronts. After months of wrangling between the building owner and the city, the city authorized using eminent domain to take over the empty storefront. The owner vowed to fight any action by the city to take the property and announced Pueblo Supermarkets of the U.S. Virgin Islands was close to signing a lease, an operator Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said was unacceptable because of legal troubles with four of its stores.

4. Dyett High School's Uncertain Future: After a year of protests and arrests, Dyett High School looks likely to be kept open, a reversal of a 2012 decision by Chicago Public Schools to phase out the high school. The school started the year with 13 seniors, its final class, and community groups putting out a proposal to keep the school open as an open-enrollment high school with a focus on green technology. The group slowly gained support from officials, but clashed with Ald. Will Burns (4th), who declined to back the plan. After 11 protesters were arrested outside the mayor’s office while promoting the plan and as the municipal elections approached, CPS announced it would solicit proposals to reopen the school in 2016.

5. University of Chicago Police Department: As University of Chicago faculty were cheering a court victory forcing complaints against city cops be made public, the university’s 100-officer force faced mounting criticism. The university force earned top marks from the Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. But the interviews with community members unearthed claims of racial profiling and questions about how the university polices its own officers. In November, the university took investigations of complaints against officers away from rank-and-file and put a university administrator in charge.

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