Congratulations to the South Side for being named the location for the Obama Library! As with most things that will benefit the city, the community and the people in it, that old saying, “The devil is in the details” rings truer than ever.
What is very interesting is that there aren’t any details. The location is undecided. The architectural design is undecided. One has to wonder what was presented to the Obama Foundation and what that will mean for the poor black people living in the area. Will the library be the wonderful Noah’s Ark that will be the lifesaving tool that lifts all ships or will it be the tsunami that will end for poor black people the ability to ever live again in that community as gentrification takes over?
I am not going to spend a lot of time speculating about the South Side and the Obama Library for it is the West Side and what will be the Noah’s Ark that will save us that is my current concern. Several articles over the past couple of weeks have indicated that both the governor and the mayor are in accord that Chicago should get a casino. As it will be land-based, ala the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, let me again reiterate what I wrote about in 2006.
We have a very large, empty and wonderful site to put a Black Entertainment District. The old Brach Candy site [Cicero Avenue north of Lake Street] would be a fabulous location to put the land-based Casino. But it would be more than just a gambling establishment, as it could/should include the following: a 120-room hotel; a roller-skating rink; an indoor water park; a multiplex cinema; a music venue auditorium; a banquet facility; a variety of restaurants and a shopping mall that would allocate 50 percent of the business space for local residents.
Strategically the Brach site sits almost midway between O’Hare and Midway airports with a train line between that could have a high-speed train connecting the two. Also, the Metra train line and the CTA Green Line abuts it. The Eisenhower Expressway is just a mile or so to the south. Cicero Avenue is already home to significant traffic and as a city, we must stop looking at the lakefront as the only place to put economic development.
A Black Entertainment District would offer a variety of jobs that many in the neighborhood can do. It would offer the ability for people to go into business and show that the West Side is not a forgotten side of town but can stand on its own to have the kind of development that can be our economic base for years to come.
It is time for the average citizen here on the West Side to begin to demand of those who seek our votes every 2-4 years some return on our support of them. A Black Entertainment District that offers hundreds of jobs along with the ability of people to own a business in an area where their monetary investment will be rewarded can be the genesis of a rebirth of many communities on the West Side.
We, too, have tourist attractions. Did you know that Austin Town Hall’s design is based on Philadelphia’s Independence Hall? We have a gem in both the Golden Dome and the Garfield Park Conservatory. We have a number of historic buildings that can attract tourist dollars. We have some of the best park land in the entire city and we need our black elected officials to come together with a viable, economic plan that will benefit the community.