WOODLAWN — Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and advertising and communications executive Sherman Wright have been picked to chair a new nonprofit charged with steering the economic benefits of the Obama Presidential Center to nearby neighborhoods.
The nonprofit’s 25-member board, chaired by Duncan and Wright, was announced Tuesday, but it is still unnamed.
The board met for the first time last week to start figuring out what it can do to make sure Woodlawn, Washington Park and South Shore benefit from investment lured to the South Side by the Obama Center in Jackson Park.
The board will have to move quick, with plans for the center expected to move to the city approval process at the end of this year and construction starting in 2018.
“There is an an immediate opportunity now to set the tone for what inclusive development looks like in these neighborhoods,” said Joanna Trotter, a senior program officer at the Chicago Community Trust, which provided an initial grant to start the nonprofit.
She said the Trust is encouraging the board to start thinking now about splitting into committees to start working on economic development issues soon.
The nonprofit still needs a lot of things to become a force in influencing how the gains from the Obama Center are realized. That starts with a name, fundraising, crafting a mission statement and hiring staff that will be the face of the new nonprofit. That doesn’t mention the work to build the nonprofit’s own reputation in the three neighborhoods as it claims to also represent those neighborhoods’ interests.
The board so far includes a lot of people with intimate knowledge of Woodlawn, South Shore and Washington Park.
Trotter pointed to Stephanie Green, a real estate attorney in Washington Park that’s worked on promoting the neighborhood’s cultural events and affordable housing issues, and Charise Williams, the deputy chief of staff for civic engagement in Illinois Treasurer Treasurer Mike Frerichs’ office.
Other names may be more familiar, including Rev. Byron Brazier of Apostolic Church of God in Woodlawn and Rev. Torrey Barret, executive director of the KLEO Center in Washington Park, who together pushed for the creation of the new nonprofit.
Eighty people applied for a spot on the board, according to Trotter. An independent consultant ranked the candidates and the final decision was made by a panel that included representatives from the Obama Foundation, the city, the University of Chicago, the Chicago Community Trust and the Network of Woodlawn.
The full board includes:
Arne Duncan (co-chair)
Sherman Wright (co-chair)
Jesse Knox III
David Reifman (ex-officio)
Andrea Zopp (ex-officio)