Wednesday, April 28, 2010

South Chicago Does Green in a Big Way

Lots of communities and individuals talk about "being green," but few can show as much actual green activity as the former steel mill community of South Chicago, which in May will host 80 green-oriented events from habitat restoration and urban farming to tours, youth programs, cycling events and health activities. It's a structured month-long calendar put together by community organizations involved in the South Chicago Green Summit. That's a now-annual event that grew out of the local strategy to turn the "steel town into green town."

And so it shouldn't be a surprise that one of the leaders of all this activity, Claretian Associates Executive Director Angela Hurlock, was honored as one of Chicago Magazine's 2010 Green Awards. Hurlock lives in one of the energy-conserving and solar-electricity-generating houses that Claretian builds, and she leads a broad range of community-building programs that, alongside the green strategies, will help South Chicago reconnect to the mainstream economy after many years as a depressed post-steel neighborhood.

Congrats to Angela Hurlock and her colleagues. On the video, her segment runs from 3:20 to 6:00.

Chicago magazine's 2010 Green Awards from Chicago magazine on Vimeo.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Neighborhoods Take the Offensive on Affordable Housing

(Rendering of proposed building at 3230 W. Armitage Ave., from the Zapata Apartments web site)

The Zapata Apartments development, three buildings with 66 affordable residential units and ground-floor commercial space, seems to a lot of people like a very good idea. Filling vacant spaces on and near Armitage Avenue and providing a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, the Zapata project is a response by two respected community groups – Logan Square Neighborhood Association and Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation – to the heavy local demand for affordable housing.

But there's another viewpoint, a familiar one in Chicago, that there's enough "low-income" housing already and that what the neighborhood needs is more market-rate development. A local homeowner, Zach Abel, has organized neighbors against the Zapata Apartments and filed suit to stop development.

WBEZ did a radio report that attracted quite a flurry of rants and rationales in its comments section. John McCarron wrote a piece for the New Communities Program, which supports the project, about "the risk and rancor that goes with brick-and-mortar community development in these uncertain times." And backers of the project have just launched a new web site,, where they offer details of the development and encourage readers to sign and distribute petitions.

Seems to me that building affordable housing makes a lot more sense right now than adding more condos to an over-saturated market, but maybe I just don't get it. What do you think?