May 31, 2013
Beautification of a gateway lot and a walking tour of historic and architecturally significant sites on Saturday will launch the Invest in Englewood campaign of the new Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation.
From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, June 1, Englewood residents will install landscaping at the northwest corner of 63rd and Yale, an entryway to the community from the Dan Ryan Expressway. Neighborhood Housing Services is partnering with GECDC on the project.
At 10 a.m. a guided tour will take off from 63rd and Yale — including a section of old mansions — to “show another dimension of what Greater Engelwood has to offer the city,” said Eric McLoyd, executive director of the group.
Invest in Englewood aims at marshalling community resources — including the efforts of scores of community organizations — to “rebrand, rebuild, and revitalize the community” in a resident-led project, said Sonya Marie Harper, an organizer with Residents Association of Greater Englewood.
GECDC was founded in 2011 after the economic development work group of RAGE realized a community development corporation was needed to addess the “stalled economic development” in Englewood and West Englewood, she said.
The first step is to broaden the perception of the community on the part of residents as well as outsiders, she said. While most press coverage focuses on violence — and the community has among the highest rates of unemployment, vacant properties, and population loss in the city — there is also a wide range of positive efforts by community residents, including 500 local businesses.
“We have to get the word out that residents are doing great things,” Harper said.
One strategy involves putting more energy behind an existing Green and Healthy Neighborhood plan, which calls for establishing an urban agriculture district and encouraging the growth of food production, processing, distribution and service businesses, along with workforce training.
The group also plans to step up monitoring of four local TIF districts to increase access to financing for local initiatives, Harper said.
A recent presentation on Englewood TIFs by Civic Lab identified only one private project that has been funded by the four TIFs, in addition to small-scale small business grants.