Two weeks ago, the Chicago Public Schools approved a charter for Horizon Science Academy at 8522 S Lafayette. The school is reported to have signed a lease that would pay an affiliate of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church who's pastor is Charles Jenkins, $1.0 million in yearly rent. Mr. Jenkins is a trusted advisor to Mayor Rahm Emmanuel. Many believe that this figure is out of line compared to what other schools are paying for similar space. Many believe this is a diabolical covert way of publicly funding a church pastored by an ally of the mayor. The church with an estimated congregation of 6,000 is planning to relocate on adjacent land and build several buildings http://legacyprojectchicago.com/.
The Chatham community has a number of churches. There are churches of all denominations and faiths. A number of these churches have dwindling congregations for a variety of reasons. Prior to the announcement, it was announced that to the east of Chatham in the 8th ward at 1021 E 78th Street that Alderman Michelle Harris gave another megagchurch, New Life Covenant, several city owned lots so they could build their church complex. New Life Covenant has an estimated congregation of 6,000 members and is pastored by radio personality Mr. John Hannah.
While most would see a combined estimated $60-80 million in developments as a positive to the respective communities, there comes some issues with these churches. Several years ago, Pastor and former State Senator James Meeks of Salem Baptist church started a crusade to close stores in Roseland that sold liquor and tobacco that his church deemed "undesirable". He was successful in closing stores but the strip of Michigan Ave. between 100th-119th has not seen any businesses come in to take the place of those that are closed and until the recent opening of Walmart was left without a grocery store.
In Chatham, along 79th street there are several liquor store and lounges. Most are law abiding, while one has become the target of community leaders to get closed and was closed for several months. So the question in my mind is as a resident of Chatham who is of legal age, sound mind, taxpaying and law abiding citizen do I lose my right to purchase wine and spirits as a result of the church moving nearby and a bunch of people who come into the neighborhood one day for several hours feel that its not what they want?
In west Chatham, the proposed Fellowship MBC development will end adjacent to the parking area of the new Studio Movie Grill-Chatham. SMG-Chatham is on track for renovations of its lobby and the renovations will place a small scale casual dining restaurant that will include a bar. The theater itself has been at 210 W 87th for over 16 years but when the church moves in and disagrees with a particular movie or the serving of wine and spirits do I lose my chose as a legal age. law abiding, sound mind and tax paying citizen?
While the churches may believe that they can provide alternatives I believe not. They are not going to be able to replace the 150 jobs at SMG-Chatham and the other jobs lost along 79th street. Also, will younger families want to move to a community that offers no entertainment venues? These are questions the Chatham community will have to answer.
What do you think?
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Tags: 21st ward, 6th ward, 7936 S Cottage Grove, 79th street, 8th ward, alderman brookins, alderman harris, chatham, chatham 14, church, entertainment, Fellowship MBC, liquor store, mayor, megachurch, michigan ave, New Life Covenant, rahm manuel, roderick sawyer, studio movie grill