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South Shore

The South Shore Community stretches along Chicago’s lakefront from 67th to 79th Streets on the east and from the Lake to Stony Island Avenue, on the West. Its storied history has been checkered with economic ups and downs. Once a Gold Coast on the Southside anchored by a luxurious country club, exclusive shops, theaters, private schools, and several thriving commercial strips, it now sits on the brink of destruction – plagued by systemic disinvestment, bad public policy, crime, foreclosures, and population decline. Yet the numbers don’t quite tell the tale. South Shore is a community of extremes and anyone who wants to understand it will never get it right if they rely on the averages. This predominantly African American community is rich with the one asset that can turn all of this around—HUMAN CAPITAL. For years, the professional sector residing in South Shore has been at the center of education, culture, banking, civil rights, and education throughout the city of Chicago, with the notable exception of the neighborhood in which they reside. In essence, South Shore has been a bedroom community for them; a place to sleep after working hard everywhere else. The combination of that stasis, the foreclosure crisis, and the devastating impact of the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation was the Triple Whammy it took to create the deteriorated community you see today. Property values have plummeted. The commercial strip is anything but. Violence, unemployment, and crime are high; while school scores, income, and expectations are low. Further, this once upper-middle-class community is now a food desert, snubbed by the big chains that took over the shuttered Dominicks all over the city and overlooked by Mario’s and Whole Foods, who elected to locate in Bronzeville and Englewood, instead. The vultures are circling as speculators move in to purchase property for taxes, hold on to it or turn it into still more Section 8 housing and wait until South Shore is declared in need of “Transformation” and the current occupants are pushed out. Yet, in the midst of the highs and lows that typify the declining neighborhood syndrome, one can feel the gathering Winds of Change as area residents, elected officials, and community organizations mobilize to save their community, once again.

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