The people of Austin and, I suspect, other parts of the city where there have been years of divestment have had to fight for what they believe they deserve. Fight for better schools, equal justice, safe streets, a seat at the table, resources for their nonprofit organizations. Fight against a racially unjust system put in place long before we were born.
Now I can honestly say Austin is changing – for the better. I no longer look downtown to see development. The Soul City Corridor, along Chicago Avenue, will bring development to underutilized land by promoting Black culture, arts and entertainment while pursuing economic development, job creation and other developments that serve people. neighborhood residents. Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West program has laid the groundwork to bring this much-needed development to Austin. We will soon have a fitness center and sit-down restaurant. A full-service grocery store is being established. New streetscapes have been installed, with more to come.
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The challenge now is to overcome the natural reaction to fight. Coming together and making Austin an economic and cultural engine.
Residents see home values increase. New construction is underway and properties are being sold prior to construction. The City of Chicago Corridor Managers program has given community stakeholders a direct link to the Planning Department, ensuring their voices and needs are included in the development of our community. Beautiful works of art go up on the buildings. We have a new public outdoor plaza, POP Court, where the community can gather in an attractive, violence-free outdoor space.
What is finally happening in many disinvested communities is growth. With growth comes challenges. We are challenged not to fight, but to attack the system that has kept us under resourced for so many years. It’s about creating a new system that allows all of Chicago to thrive.