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City Receives $30.5 Million Grant To Revitalize Woodlawn Neighborhood

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Wednesday that the city has secured $30.5 million in federal funding to redevelop parts of the struggling Woodlawn neighborhood.

The announcement came a matter of hours after four teens were shot and wounded nearby.

The mayor was joined by U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) Wednesday to announce the federal grant.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Mike Krauser reports


It will be devoted to redeveloping Grove Parc Plaza, a subsidized low-income housing complex near 61st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue that has been undergoing demolition and redevelopment in recent years.

The old Grove Parc development was composed of 504 units in squat brick buildings, spread out over a 12-acre site. It was constructed in the 1960s, but was threatened with foreclosure due to poor conditions in 2007, the Mayor's office says.

"Grove Parc is ground zero – disinvestment, failing schools, troubled housing, and most pernicious of all, a lack of fundamental opportunity," Donovan said at the news conference.

The surrounding Woodlawn neighborhood also has long been plagued with crime, unemployment, vacant lots and lack of services, the Mayor's office said.

But instead of resigning themselves to foreclosure, Grove Parc residents brought in the nonprofit development company Preservation of Affordable Housing Inc. to redevelop the complex, in a partnership with the city, the Jane Addams Hull House, the nearby University of Chicago and other partners.

Now, 965 units of new housing are planned, including apartments to replace the original subsidized units, and additional ones for reduced-rent, market-rate rental, and home ownership units, the Mayor's office said.

Grove Parc will be renamed after the upgrade, which will include not only more housing, but better retail and policing, and more education opportunities.

Through the public-private partnership working to redevelop Grove Parc, Mayor Emanuel says he has leveraged the $30 million in federal funds into $270 million.

"It is all part of an economic strategy to make sure, dollar for dollar, we're not just trying to spread it everywhere," Emanuel said. "We're investing and doubling down our resources in a community, so people can go to work, people can raise a family, and we can turn a neighborhood around, making sure our investments from the University of Chicago, to our Police Department, to our energy grants, to our job training, are all invested in areas where we can have the maximum bang out of the dollars we're investing."

The money is part of the Federal Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. The first-of-their-kind grants are being given out to Chicago and four other cities – Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Dr. Leon Finney of The Woodlawn Organization was in the neighborhood in 1968, when HUD first announced plans for the old Grove Parc development.

As for the mission of turning the area around, Finney said, "It's tough, but I don't think it's impossible."

A survey of some neighborhood residents brought mixed responses, but there seemed to be optimism.

The U of C has been pouring efforts and resources into improving the Woodlawn neighborhood for several years.

The U of C Police Department has patrolled the Woodlawn neighborhood as far south as 64th Street, from Lake Michigan west to Cottage Grove Avenue, for a decade.

Since then, many students have elected to move into Woodlawn rather than the pricier Hyde Park neighborhood to the north, and the campus itself has expanded southward, particularly with the 2009 opening of the South Campus residence hall on 61st Street.

But crime remains a serious issue in the area, as evidenced by the shooting Tuesday night. Four boys – ages 14, 15, 17 and 18 – were shot and wounded at 62nd Street and Rhodes Avenue, and were all hospitalized in critical condition.

No one was in custody in the shooting as of late Wednesday morning.

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