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Greater Chatham Initiative Launched To Revitalize South Side Neighborhoods

 U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and Nedra Fears, Greater Chatham Initiative executive director
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and Nedra Fears, Greater Chatham Initiative executive director
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DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson

CHATHAM — Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) Wednesday to announce an initiative to improve a handful of communities on the South Side, including  Chatham, Auburn Gresham, Greater Grand Crossing and Avalon Park.

The two — joined by community leaders, aldermen and other partners — announced the launching of the Greater Chatham Initiative, a collaborative effort to strengthen those South Side communities.

They met at the Chatham Studio Movie Grill, 210 W. 87th St. The main focus of the initiative is to drive investment in those areas and generate neighborhood redevelopment and economic growth.

Exelon Vice President William Von Hoene, Jr. announced a three-year, $300,000 grant to the initiative, while ComEd will give a $90,000 grant toward workforce development.

For the last two years, organizations researched what made those communities thrive in the past. Six key areas to focus on were identified: human capital and workforce development; business development; housing; public safety; support services and amenities; and civic capacity and institutional environment.

ComEd's Marlow Colvin, co-chair of the leadership committee working on the initiative, said the measures “will connect residents, businesses, and other assets to the regional economy, in turn attracting and retaining working and middle-class African-American families to these communities.”

"This is an enterprise that is near and dear to my heart," Rush said. "It represents the tangible results of leadership and stakeholders working creatively for two years toward the common goal of improving the economic viability and quality of life for those who live and work on Chicago’s South Side. With its tremendous potential, the Greater Chatham area is a great place to implement GCI’s new and ambitious program.”

He said the desire to spearhead this initiative started after special education teacher Betty Howard was fatally shot outside, across from his office in May of 2014.

Emanuel said that the city is working with the community to "reinvent, rebuild and revitalize the Greater Chatham area." 

"As more businesses take root and grow, we will see a multiplier effect on housing and education — the hallmarks of a strong and stable community. Through the Greater Chatham Initiative we can strengthen the entire city because the city of Chicago is only as strong as each of our neighborhoods are strong,” he said.

This initiative includes a comprehensive effort to address violence in the area, among other things, Emanuel said. He already has made recent moves to improve the Chatham community. The Streetscape Improvement Project will support local businesses by upgrading a six-block stretch of Cottage Grove from 77th to 83rd Streets.

He also recently announced a $12 million investment  to modernize the Whitney M. Young Jr. Library at 79th and King Drive, which will offer both a modern library space with programming that will benefit community.

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