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Bronzeville Residents Slam CHA For Giving Public Housing Land To Mariano's

CHICAGO (CBS) -- South Side residents expressed frustration Thursday with the pace of replacing public housing that was torn down at the site of what will become a Mariano's grocery store in Bronzeville.

Members of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization protested at the northeast corner of Pershing Road and King Drive, the former home of the Chicago Housing Authority's Ida B. Wells housing development.

While they said there's need for a new grocery store in the area, there's greater need to replace public housing that has been torn down over the past 16 years.

"We need a grocery store in this part of town, but it shouldn't steal land away from the people who have been promised a home," said 73-year-old Frances Banks.

The CHA began tearing down the Ida B. Wells Homes in 1999, and were given three alternatives for replacement housing until new mixed income homes replaced the complex. The nearby Clarence Darrow and Madden Park housing developments also were taken down during that time, and the last Ida B. Wells high-rise was razed in 2011.

Since then, Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) executive director Juwanza Malone said residents have been given "no sense of what's going to happen."

"All we know is that housing was torn down, a promise was made to bring it back, that promise has not been kept, and land keeps disappearing," he said.


Malone said, out of a couple of thousand units of housing that disappeared, only 250 units have been built as part of the new Oakwood Shores development a few blocks east on Pershing.

The group blamed everyone from the CHA, to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, to Ald. Will Burns (4th).

"There's no good excuse for why he would trade land that is needed for housing for people who need it most for a high-priced grocery store," Banks said.

Malone said, even though there are other vacant corners on 39th and King, the CHA provided land that had been set aside for public housing to Mariano's for private development.

Burns said he doesn't understand why there was a protest on Thursday, unless it was all about politics and the upcoming election. He said there will still be mixed-income public housing on that site.

"The Mariano's project is about 7 acres. There are 55 acres of land in the total vacant land on the site. So there are 48 acres of land left for housing development," he said.

Residents, meanwhile, want to know when more housing will be built.

Local resident Erana Jackson-Taylor said, since the Mariano's store is a done deal, "we need a Community Benefits Agreement to protect the interests of the people who have called this community home for generations."

Burns said the community will get a say as the next phase of the Oakwood Shores development gets fleshed out in the spring of this year.

"Overwhelming sentiment in the community is that Mariano's is good, for everybody," Burns said.

The alderman said the store – slated to open next year – would provide food for the community, jobs, and will be among other retail establishments that will be built. He also said, to attract people to a new community, you have to offer commercial amenities like grocery stores and dry cleaners.

"If you don't have grocery stores, and retail it makes it very difficult to build the kind of community that everybody wants to live in," Burns said.
In response to Thursday's protest, the CHA issued the following statement:

"As part of our strategic initiative, 'Plan Forward,' the Chicago Housing Authority continues to work to help build strong, vibrant communities throughout the city. CHA has sufficient land to accommodate those residents who have the Right to Return. This type of public-private investment with Mariano's and the City of Chicago helps to strengthen the entire community -- creating more than 400 jobs and access to fresh foods and produce."

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