After two years of collecting ideas and planning, the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council and their partners unveiled what they are billing as “the next chapter” of North Lawndale’s history — a community-wide Quality of Life Plan.
The council unveiled the plan, which is available online and in print, on Nov. 1 at Old St. Patrick’s Catholic Church’s auxiliary auditorium, 625 W. Addams St.
The idea behind the plan is to create community development priorities for the community. Now that those priorities have been set, NLCCC and its subcommittees will be working with local politicians, community organizations and other stakeholders to make this plan a reality.
In the statement released by NLCCC, Rodney Brown, member of the council’s Executive Committee, emphasized that it wouldn’t be easy, and it would require everyone to work together.
“In order to improve the quality of life in North Lawndale, full participation from all stakeholders is required,” he stated. “The majority of residents have an interest in the growth and development of the community despite consistent media reports of shootings and abject poverty.”
For housing, the plan prioritizes promoting home ownership, maintaining and improving existing homes and streets, and ensuring that affordable housing options exist even as medium home prices increase. The new North Lawndale Homewners’ Association would be set up to help accomplish those goals. Helping local residents buy homes, maintain and rehabilitate homes is listed as a major priority. The plan calls for prioritizing rehabilitation over demolition.
Another major priority in the plan is to work to promote North Lawndale outside of the community in the hopes that this, along with improvements, would make the community more attractive to investors and “potential buyers.”
For economy and workforce development, the plan calls for doing more to encourage economic development in the community by helping local entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground and keep them going, providing more job training programs for teens and adults, and encouraging grocery stores and other businesses to move in.
Some of the major business-related priorities include establishing a North Lawndale business incubator, preserving and growing “local employment opportunities in industrial and advanced manufacturing sector,” attracting a major grocery store and encouraging businesses that do open up to hire local.
On the infrastructure and transportation front, the plan calls for improvements to existing bus stops and ‘L’ stations, as well as for restoring the defunct Kostner Blue Line ‘L’ station. Improving Ogden Avenue, expanding bus service and improving amenities for drivers are also listed as major priorities. So is installing green infrastructure to reduce flooding and generally making the streets safer for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
The plan also looks to encourage cycling by building more bike-friendly infrastructure. It also calls for a North Lawndale “community technology center” that will not only offer coding and programming classes for community residents, but act as a large-scale Wi-Fi hotspot.
In terms of open space and “greening,” the plan calls for improving North Lawndale’s existing parks, planting more trees throughout the neighborhood, and making vacant lots more useful to the community by turning them into play lots, community gardens and parks.
In terms of arts and culture, the plan calls for building on existing programs, events and assets, as well as creating new spaces where artists can live, work and showcase their pieces. The plan calls for creating “a multi-use art venue in North Lawndale, including gallery space and equipment to record and/or perform music, and encourage the development of other performance spaces in the community.”
The plan also calls for using festivals and gallery nights to help local artists get the word out about their work and connect them to potential collectors.
In terms of health and wellness, the plan aims to address health inequities in North Lawndale by putting more resources into the community and doing more to educate residents about resources that are already there.
Establishing a free mental health center in the community is listed as one of the major priorities. So is training “block leaders” who can get information about health issues to their neighbors and connect their neighbors to health and social service resources.
The plan also advocates polling residents to see if they would be interested in a “holistic wellness center that would join counseling with therapeutic activities, such as aromatherapy, art, yoga, and healthy-cooking classes. “
In terms of public safety, the plan focuses on trying to address the root causes of violence and crime by promoting restorative justice and “violence interruption” conflict mediation practices. The plan emphasizes providing resources, as well as mental and emotional support, for residents who are at risk.
To strengthen the partnership between the community and the police, the plan calls for expanding youth participation in Bridging the Divide program, which places police officers in local schools.
The copy of the plan is available online at: https://nlcccplanning.org/home-3/north-lawndale-the-next-chapter-quality-of-life-plan/. Residents can also get a physical copy at NLCCC offices on the second floor of 3936 W. Roosevelt Road.