18th July 2017

Wendy Walker Williams (Executive director)
Diane Burnham (Senior program manager)
Tim Barton (Board member)

Meeting with the South East Chicago Commission

The South East Chicago Commission (SECC) is a community-based organisation funded primarily by the University of Chicago and city government that promotes programs and initiatives enhancing quality of life for residents of Hyde Park, Oakland, Kenwood, Woodlawn and Washington Park. Since the eastern section of the disused Kenwood embankment lies in Oakland, I was keen to hear whether the SECC had any suggestions for the implementation of a community project in the area, or potential contacts.

I received plenty of both. We discussed the ongoing plans to connect Oakland to the lakefront with several bridges over Lake Shore Drive - some new, some rebuilt - at 35th street, 41st street and 43rd street. A number of upcoming events where I could potentially collect data by interviewing residents were also brought to my attention - a series of monthly 'Bronzeville Summer Nights' street parties, a jazz music festival organised by the 51st Business Association, and the annual Bud Billiken parade. I will contact the organisers of these events in due course.

Two disconnected segments of the Kenwood embankment can be found in Oakland (marked).

Wendy asked something to the effect of:

"How do you anticipate funding any type of improvement to the Kenwood line? Or are you just trying to come up with a great idea and give it to somebody?"

Wendy Walker Williams

This was one of those direct questions that prompted me to define my ambitions for the following 6 months in a few words. I don’t think she realises how useful I found it to hear this. First I intend to establish what local residents would want from a project on the embankment, and record these desires in a visual and accessible form (her latter remark).

Then I intend to estimate the cost when factors such as insurance and water provision are taken into account. Previous projects range from the $95 million budget of the Bloomingdale trail (606) to the modest setup costs of a typical community garden (often between $2,500 and $5,000) - a potential project on the Kenwood line could sit anywhere in between depending on the ambitions of the community. I’ll see how low I can reasonably budget these ambitions and provide the figures along with the visual package above to a range of potential funding sources in Chicago.

After the meeting I had time to check out the nearby Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright.