Could a bank’s $ 20 million investment help bring about better days for South Chicago? | Editorial


The South Chicago community has literally helped make Chicago.

For most of the 20th century, many of our city’s skyscrapers, highways, and bridges were constructed from the steel that factories in the neighborhood, the giant US Steel South Works, produced around the clock. 24 and freight, providing thousands of good paying jobs along the way.

And after, what happened? The Big Steel era receded into the 1970s and then ended, and the city and its institutions repaid its debt to South Chicago by allowing it to become a new neighborhood weakened by chronic divestment.

So we were pleased last week to hear the announcement that Fifth Third Bank will make a three-year, $ 20 million investment in Chicago’s southern neighborhood.

Working with Claretian Associates and Enterprise Community Partners of South Chicago, a national affordable housing nonprofit, the bank announced plans to fund nine categories of need in South Chicago, including mortgages, loans small business and neighborhood revitalization loans.

If successful, the bank’s engagement could help address a number of chronic issues in South Chicago, including a shortage of quality affordable housing, access to capital, and disparities in income and wealth by compared to the rest of the city.

Fifth Third Bank said it is investing $ 180 million in nine communities across the country, including South Chicago.

“We believe this effort. . . will not only generate significant positive results, but will also catalyze other investments, “Fifth Third said in a statement,” leading to lasting improvements in retail and business vitality. “

The “forgotten community” receives its due

Most of the $ 20 million – $ 18 million – will be earmarked for affordable loans for housing and businesses in South Chicago, a triangular-shaped neighborhood bounded roughly by 79th Street, Lake Michigan, and the Chicago Skyway.

Claretian Associates will receive $ 2 million to help them with their work in the area, including $ 500,000 to repair an indoor pool at the organization’s Salud Center, a former YMCA at 3039 E. 90th St., which was converted into 101 retirement home units.

Other projects include transforming a vacant building at 3134 E. 92nd St. into a workforce development center and café.

“A lot of times we feel like we are the forgotten community,” Claretian Associates CEO Angela Hurlock told WTTW. “But here we are, we are thriving and we are continuing to grow.”

A role to play for banks

If Chicago neighborhoods like South Chicago are to be rejuvenated, it will take major investments from banks to do so.

Big Steel is long gone, but the neighborhood still has strengths. For example, Commercial Avenue, the main street in the neighborhood, is still a functioning commercial street, maintained primarily by residents of South Chicago who shop there.

With its good commercial architecture from the turn of the 20th century, Commercial Avenue could be significantly improved with an infusion of some of that Fifth Third Bank investment.

South Chicago is also close to enviable natural assets, including the lakefront and restored and attractive public wetlands and green spaces further south, such as Big Marsh Park and Hegewisch Marsh.

It’s especially nice to see a bank take a leading role in the fight for a neighborhood like South Chicago because of the banking industry’s historic and even continuing role in divesting predominantly black communities over the past half century. .

Hopefully, Fifth Third Bank’s investment will be just the first of a good new thing for South Chicago, with other banks following their lead.

And if it’s not in South Chicago, then elsewhere in the city where there is a similar need.

For the good of the neighborhoods. And for the good of our city as a whole.

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