Just this week I received an email from another Bronzeville neighbor about the Rosenwald. This email included a link to a letter sent by a group called Rosenwald4All, clever name. I’m pretty passionate about my neighborhood and the Rosenwald, so I had to read the entire 10 page document. I hope Mayor Emmanuel read it as well and took it to heart.
Here’s a link to the letter, Letter to the Mayor. In a nutshell it outlines the numerous reasons why Bronzeville simply cannot support all those units of low-income housing designated to replace some of the lost housing of the same ilk in Bronzeville. We are inundated with poverty; struggling low performance schools; excessive crime. On that last note I have to elaborate.
One of my daughters is currently teaching in Beirut. Of course I am concerned and posted same on her face book page. To wit she replied, “Maman (It’s not misspelled. French pronunciation with a nasal sound at the end) there are fewer gunshots in all of Beirut than there are in your neighborhood!” Sad and oh so true.
I am a firm believer in saving the Rosenwald building. I think tearing it down would be a crime. I don’t buy into disallowing mixed income housing. In fact, I’m a big supporter but I do understand the community concerns. I also have some trouble with the math calculations that over 100 million dollars is needed to fix the building. I personally talked to the development group and the community task force and not one single alternative energy or sustainability component was on the drawing board. I didn’t see any plans to install Kohler fixtures, Jacuzzi tubs or granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Where is this price tag coming from?
The original community sponsored architect designed the redevelopment project to be highly efficient, green and less expensive. Where is that plan? His changes would have made the building less expensive to operate and certainly more attractive to renters in higher income brackets.
One thoughtful student from IIT suggested that some units be reserved for graduate students, especially those with families. For the most part that group is living on a shoestring budget (unless you are the Mitt Romney family). I suggested to the task force that senior units should be 2 bedrooms or have extra closets to attract low or moderate income senior couples. I also agree with the letter that the retail space on the bottom level should be specifically designed to accommodate a quality grocery store Under no circumstances do we need another hair products, package goods, currency exchange or fast food poison spot!
So, to Mayor Emmanuel and Alderman Pat Dowell I feel your need to get something done with the Rosenwald building besides razing it. We do need affordable housing but not so concentrated in one struggling spot in Chicago. This building is situated close to great transportation, access to highway and not too far from the Loop. These facts make the site attractive but right now residents have to navigate through a community with more gunshots than Beirut and that’s not too attractive.