The University of Chicago police are planning to extend their patrols to cover a portion of Woodlawn. This decision follows an influx of University students and faculty members into recently built or renovated condominiums and apartments in the long-blighted neighborhood. If their plans are approved by the City Council, the University police will add an additional six officers to its roster and will begin patrolling between Evans Avenue and Stony Island from 61st to 64th Streets.
Many Woodlawn community activists hope that the widening of the U of C police's patrol routes into the neighborhood will affect both the actual incidence of crime there, as well as people's perception of the neighborhood's safety.
Safety is a problem everywhere," said Leah Bloomenthal, director of legislation for 20th ward Alderman Arenda Troutman. Crime can happen in the most exclusive suburb; it can happen in the inner city."
According to Bloomenthal, the larger problem comes from the perception of a neighborhood being unsafe. It's a matter of whether or not people feel victimized by crimes that haven't happened, whether they triple lock their doors and don't go out and enjoy life," she said. It's the perception of crime and not the reality of crime that is the problem."
Police activity south of the Midway will increase as other efforts to revitalize Woodlawn also move forward. According to Vice President of Community Affairs Hank Webber, the University's interest in Woodlawn serves to bolster the efforts of the neighborhood's leaders.
We did this to contribute to the revitalization of Woodlawn," Webber told the University of Chicago Magazine.
The leadership of the Woodlawn community has a clear goal of creating a mixed income neighborhood with high standards. We want to support that effort."
This effort includes the construction of new residences throughout the neighborhood. According to Troutman, some 3,000 individual residential units have been renovated, most of which lie along 62nd street.
Troutman expects to attract new residents with affordable-housing development projects like Kenwood Point, from 64th to 65th Street on Kenwood, and Plaisance Place, from Greenwood to Ellis Avenue along 61st Street.
The priority for right now is the renovation of residential buildings," Troutman said. And then after we've helped make the neighborhood more attractive to residents, hopefully more commercial projects will happen."
Troutman also hopes to address community needs by supporting the construction of a neighborhood grocery store. From Cottage Grove to Ingleside, from 63rd to 64th Streets, five acres of land will be used to build a supermarket.
I am an alderman and a resident, so I am very sensitive to this issue," Troutman said. I have to go all the way to the Co-op in Hyde Park, or to the Dominick's at 71st street, to get food."
In addition to commercial and housing projects in Woodlawn, several improvements in the neighborhood's infrastructure have been made. Along 63rd Street, the focus of much of the redevelopment, new sewers were installed. A new park is also in the works on 63rd Street, between University and Greenwood Avenues.
Woodlawn community leaders hope that U of C students and administrators will get involved in revamping the neighborhood.
The University has been very helpful in improving Woodlawn, lending its resources and people," Troutman said.
I think the University wants to see Woodlawn revitalized because it is its neighbor and it wants all the surrounding neighborhoods to be attractive."
Community officials also hope that these efforts will attract University students to Woodlawn. Students are welcome to the neighborhood," said Bloomenthal. They make wonderful neighbors because they are the beginnings of educated and positive young families, and they'll get involved."