This report presents the results of research on opportunities for economic growth in the Greater Grand Boulevard Community. Socioeconomic data were collected and analyzed, and fifty-five block club leaders, business people, church leaders, social workers, elected officials and other activists were interviewed. The University of Illinois at Chicago's Center for Urban Economic Development (CUED) carried out the research and wrote this report for Grand Boulevard Residents Encouraging Action Together (GREAT) and Centers for New Horizons. The report completes the first phase of a planning process spearheaded by these two organizations to initiate economic developmental efforts within the Grand Boulevard community.
Serious declines in housing, income, population and skilled workers in the Greater Grand Boulevard area were documented: Between 1970 and 1980 the population declined by over one-third, compared to 14% for the city of Chicago. In 1980, 57.4% of the families in the study area lived below the poverty level, compared to 34.61% in 1970. Between 1970 and 1980, 22% or 8,462 housing units were demolished. While the proportion of professionals living in the study area declined 20% during the 1970s, the proportion for the city as a whole rose 13%. Residents working in service occupations rose 14% while those in crafts, precision production and repair occupations fell 19%.
There are signs of improvements, however. They are reflected in statistics and in the responses of Grand Boulevard residents eager to get down to work and rebuild their community from the inside. In the 1970s, the number of high school graduates increased 8%, thus bringing the number of high school graduates to more than 35%, sharply higher than the city's 28.4%. Between 1980 and 1983 the study area has gained 428 new housing units, mostly for senior citizens. More retail, wholesale and service businesses are in the study area now than in 1980. Most people interviewed felt that an independent organizing effort was needed to bring the different groups in the community together to forge new solutions.
Based on these and other findings and on the needs of the community as expressed in the interviews, the report outlines six recommendations for the GREAT Coalition, Centers for New Horizons and the community in general to discuss as they continue to plan and organize for economic development.
This report recommends that the community takes steps to:
1) Improve the coordination and cooperation among community organizations to increase the effectiveness of each organization and build towards a united campaign of economic development.
2) Develop educational programs to improve the employability of Grand Boulevard residents. A literacy program similar to the Freedom Schools of the Civil Rights Movement is suggested.
3) Initiate job training and placement programs to facilitate the entry of residents into occupations that are stable or growing. A strategy is suggested which focuses on the employment base that rings the loop. This area employs as many as 20% of Grand Boulevard workers.
4) Support efforts by local businesses to revitalize existing businesses and attract more businesses to the area.
5) Explore new development ideas that would increase community control and participation in the future of the greater Grand Boulevard community.
6) Support independent Chicago Housing Authority resident organizations in their efforts to improve their economic situation and secure jobs for CHA residents
. The report is meant to stimulate discussion within the community, which its authors hope will lead to an organized campaign to improve economic opportunities for all residents of the greater Grand Boulevard area.