An official announcement is expected Tuesday that the library and museum will be built on the South Side in partnership with the University of Chicago. But residents of the two neighborhoods being considered for the site — Washington Park and Woodlawn — have long been thinking about what such a project would mean for their communities.
It is likely that wherever the library goes, the neighborhood will benefit from jobs and new investments. But community groups want to make sure that the mom-and-pop businesses that have served the neighborhood for decades also thrive — rather than getting pushed out by gentrification.
“Of course we want to see our community transformed with jobs, but we also want streetscapes and nice baskets and planters hanging from the light poles like they have downtown and on the North Side,” said Donna Hampton-Smith, president of the Washington Park Chamber of Commerce. “We want safer communities, better schools, access to great grocery stores with fresh fruits and vegetables, things that are standard in other neighborhoods.”
One of the biggest challenges, though, will be forming a consensus within the community on how to go about getting those protections and deciding who should lead the charge.
One of the tools being discussed is a possible community benefits agreement, a signed contract outlining the number of jobs, financial support and other benefits that would go to the community if the library is built there.
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