While Oak Parkers should be actively concerned at the third murder in a year along the portion of Chicago Avenue from Austin Boulevard to Harvey, we’d call your attention to something hopeful and ambitious that is underway on Chicago Avenue in Austin.
After years of urging and urgency, business leaders in Austin, led by Malcolm Crawford of the Austin African American Business Networking Association have gotten the city of Chicago’s attention and commitment to invest in the stretch of Chicago Avenue from Austin to Cicero Avenue. In a city that has actively, maliciously disinvested in the West Side (and the South Side) for decades, we give credit to Mayor Lori Lightfoot for the intentional efforts to bring city funding to notable projects in Austin.
The Journal today has coverage from our sister paper, Austin Weekly News, about imminent plans to declare the stretch of Chicago Avenue the “Soul City Corridor.” This is Crawford’s brainchild — creating a commercial and cultural hub focused on African American life in one of Chicago’s great Black neighborhoods.
With what seems legitimate community input, the city will soon choose a design for a cross-street arch near Chicago and Austin proclaiming the corridor. This is just the most visible aspect of ongoing work to nurture this vision. But a bold declaration is a key part of new thinking for Chicago Avenue.
Oak Park would do well to do some new thinking about its stretch of Chicago Avenue which has virtues but also challenges.