Landmarks Illinois sent all Chicago mayoral candidates the following survey to better understand their stances on historic preservation-related topics. The survey is sectioned into four parts: 1) Historic Preservation as an Economic and Community Development Tool; 2) Sustainability and Reusability; 3) Chicago Landmarks Ordinance; and 4) Your Favorite Historic Places. The answers provided below are of the candidates who submitted responses to the survey. The candidates not included in the below responses did not return answers to Landmarks Illinois.
SECTION 1: Historic Preservation as an Economic and Community Development Tool
How will you ensure Chicago’s historic skyline and neighborhood character buildings remain the vibrant asset they are to our city’s economy, tourism and public perception of Chicago as a world-class city?
AMARA ENYIA: Chicago’s architecture is world-renowned, the skyscraper itself was invented right here, and our many neighborhoods are so distinct because of their buildings. Helping ensure this remains the case aligns closely with my Economic Justice platform that would work to narrow the wealth gap and expand preservation efforts beyond downtown. Too many buildings languish across the city when we can put Chicagoans to work restoring them, ensuring they provide affordable housing, opportunities for entrepreneurs, keep waste out of landfills and maintain Chicago’s world-class reputation.
LA SHAWN FORD: The city of Chicago has a rich history, thousands of important events that took place across the city. I will first ensure that the whole history of the city is preserved. Countless communities have struggled and triumphed in this city. A diverse array of artist and poets wrote and created here, funds will be distributed fairly, in representation of our entire city, not select neighborhoods, because our city deserves to her entire history told [sic]. This approach will not only preserve our history, but it will serve to revitalize areas in greatest need, by restoring buildings to their historic glory, and often against a backdrop of blight, protecting history and encouraging scholarship and study of a neighborhood’s vibrant past, which can do a great deal to encourage a more vibrant future, for residents who feel forgotten by city planning and investment.
GARY McCARTHY: I would ensure that the Commission of Chicago Landmarks is comprised of a diverse and knowledgeable array of members who understand the importance of maintaining Chicago’s historic charm.
PAUL VALLAS: Chicago’s legacy as a center of architectural innovation and beauty has been and must remain a central part of its identity. Not only is this an inherent good, but it is also a key to Chicago’s future economic and cultural vibrancy – throughout the city. I am dedicated to preserving as much of that legacy as possible. I believe I have built strong credentials in preservation in Chicago during my tenure as City Budget Director and especially as CEO of Chicago Public Schools, where I led efforts to renovate and restore numerous century-old landmark quality buildings in CPS’ portfolio, including many by Dwight Perkins. Building urban density should be a good thing that will allow more people to live in Chicago while reducing their carbon footprint. But new development should be done in a manner that honors, reflects and harmonizes with the Chicago’s existing built environment.
Do you support the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF), in existing TIF districts, to assist with the rehabilitation of historic and older buildings?
AMARA ENYIA: Yes. Given that Chicago’s TIF dollars have misused and abused, spending them on keeping older buildings in good condition can go a long way to helping neighborhoods stay vibrant. In Uptown, a historic community center faces demolition because the TIF monies promised for its renovation were spent on a luxury housing development. Allocating TIF funds in an equitable way can provide jobs, affordable housing and celebrate local history. Under-resourced communities want to see their historic building stock saved but often don’t have the means. TIF dollars can be a powerful tool to support and revitalize those communities currently left out of the city’s deal making.
LA SHAWN FORD: I support the use of TIFs to assist in rehabilitation of historic buildings in areas that are in the most need. When historic library buildings are renovated, and when historic schools are renovated, and when the homes of great authors in communities of need are renovated and opened to the public for study, document review, field trips and learning, then the investment serves the community many times over. The city must make the most of every dollar that we place. Each investment must be made with care, and certainly with equity and a vision for a Chicago that serves everyone.
GARY McCARTHY: As stated in the Illinois Tax Increment Allocation Redevelopment Act, TIF money is intended to amend “blighted” conditions that threaten the health, safety, morals and welfare. With that, if the rehabilitation of a historic or older building would accomplish the aforementioned goal, then yes, it would be appropriate to allocate TIF money for that purpose.
PAUL VALLAS: I believe that TIF has far exceeded the scope of its original intent, and a comprehensive review must be undertaken to stop TIF from continuing as a runaway train that further burdens ordinary taxpayers. However, I believe one of the most important uses of TIF is for the rehabilitation of older and historic buildings that add tremendously to Chicago’s sense of place and history. Thankfully, there are numerous examples of how TIF has helped restore some of Chicago’s most distinctive buildings such as the Reliance Building, as well as assisted in the restoration of local landmarks throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods. As mayor, I would work to curtail the abuse of the TIF program, but be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater by eliminating its role in historic preservation.
City incentive programs such as the Zoning Bonus Ordinance and the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Ordinance has encouraged new development, but has put demolition pressure on the low-rise, historic and character buildings in those same areas. How would you balance historic community character with increased density?
AMARA ENYIA: While landmarking is a critical tool, cities must have room to grow and evolve. Historic buildings provide diverse housing, retail and office options that make our city vibrant and affordable. A neighborhood of low- and mid-rise older buildings can actually be denser than a single high-rise. Also, new buildings are just often a more-expensive version of what’s already there without the character and history. Density must be contextual and our zoning processes and regulations should prioritize our existing building stock through measures aimed at adaptive reuse and innovative incentives.
LA SHAWN FORD: I would absolutely prioritize the preservation of our city’s history. There are a great many unused and underdeveloped spaces in this city that are crying out for development. There is absolutely no need to destroy Chicago’s history toward that end. Once you tear down a historic building, you sever the story of that space, which is a cost too great, which we will pay for generations. Developers must expand their scope, and look at the whole city, not specific concentrated spaces. Let’s serve our whole city.
GARY McCARTHY: First and foremost, I would increase transparency in the Zoning Bonus Ordinance grant vetting process. Currently, only grants of $250,000 or more require City Council approval, meaning the mayor and whomever he or she chooses to appoint as Planning and Development Commissioner have very limited checks on their power to dispense “small” amounts of grant money. The public’s interest would better be served if a more diverse group of elected officials made these decisions. Furthermore, relating to both the Zoning Bonus Ordinance and TOD Ordinance, buildings in these areas would be protected from most instances of demolition if they sought to be listed as a landmark or a Landmark District, and I would encourage community members to direct their aldermen to seek Preliminary Landmark Status and thereby halt construction until an ultimate decision is made as to the area’s historic value.
VALLAS: We must expand the list of those elements of the built environment that are worth preserving. This means going above and beyond just focusing on saving only “orange-rated” buildings that were included in the Community Historic Resources Survey completed in the administration of Harold Washington. I think it is critical for the Department of Planning and local elected officials to work closely with architects and design professionals to find ways to increase density in key transit corridors and downtown without destroying the aesthetics and social fabric that add greatly to the desirability of these communities. I have also advocated for many months for a plan to create tens of thousands of new housing units throughout Chicago by easing the creation of new garden apartments in the unfinished basements of Chicago’s roughly 175,000 multi-unit buildings. This would help build the financial viability for thousands of Chicago’s vintage buildings.
The City’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund Program has brought needed incentives to several of Chicago’s under-resourced neighborhoods. Do you feel the program is doing enough to achieve its goal to be a catalyst for investment, and what more would you do to incentivize development through building reuse citywide?
AMARA ENYIA: While the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF) Program is a promising start, the millions in the Fund pale in comparison to the billions in subsidies that the city has used to subsidize luxury development elsewhere in the city. Additionally, the fund currently does not fund residential renovation (a critical tool of community revitalization). The NOF stands to benefit the city in many ways, but the numbers are not enough to make the kind of large-scale, systemic investment that these communities need after being starved of resources for decades. The fund should employ an equity lens and be expanded to serve more of the city.
LA SHAWN FORD: No, I do not believe enough is being done to catalyze investment in under-resourced neighborhoods. Investment is still lopsided. Communities of color and the nuanced history that they hold are receiving far from their fair share. Intentional measures must be taken to bring historians, community members, churches, teachers and our seniors, from across the city, to share the history that may not be commonly known, and to then equitably distribute resources based on the priorities agreed upon by a diverse group across our cultures, geographic locals, age and interest.
GARY McCARTHY: The Neighborhood Opportunity Fund has seemingly met its financial goals and has been a great start to reinvesting in the neighborhoods, but the proper divestment of TIF funds would expedite the process of revitalizing these neighborhoods. Rather than use TIF money on building shopping centers in the Loop, I would use them to combat blight in these neighborhoods, as is the stated purpose under state law. As for incentivizing building reuse, I have stood firmly against the construction of a new police academy and instead have recommended converting any of the number of abandoned buildings found throughout the city or repurposing any of the 50 schools closed under the current administration into training facilities. Using my position as mayor, I would propose that a certain amount of projects obtaining TIF funds are projects for repurposing existing structures rather than new ones.
PAUL VALLAS: I strongly support the concept of the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF) and think there are a number of ways the City could more creatively increase its leverage and impact of NOF without imposing new hidden costs on taxpayers. I would look to use NOF funding as something that could be combined with TIF and also potential investments that might be made under the federal Opportunity Zone legislation to further magnify its impact. I think it is too early to make any definitive judgments about the success of the program as it has operated under the Emanuel Administration as there is not the greatest level of transparency on how funds are awarded. I believe putting a special focus on NOF proposals that emphasize the rehabilitation and reuse of deteriorating buildings throughout the city is a key way to assure that these funds will create a lasting legacy in Chicago.
If you are elected, what additional economic or other incentives, if any, do you believe should be developed to encourage private or public investment in Chicago’s historic buildings?
AMARA ENYIA: I’m encouraged by programs like the Large Lot program and similar initiatives to keep and grow wealth for current residents in our under-resourced communities. Like many programs, though, we need to tighten up the process to ensure good things happen on those lots and the right people are benefitting. As part of my equity audit of all city departments, I would evaluate other opportunities to prioritize historic buildings including expansion of zoning and building code relief to make sure the process is efficient and affordable, particularly for homeowners. Similarly, we would include renovation and restoration as a jobs creation tool, provide funding for preventative maintenance and keep long-time residents in place.
LA SHAWN FORD: Chicago has been home to many great scholars, athletes, performers and artists for the full breadth of our history. We absolutely must celebrate that history and reach out to those who hold history here, nationally and internationally, and encourage them to protect their own personal legacy in our city, through planned long-term economic support. We must also look at the ecology of our story and create historic maps, in partnership with other cities, in order to collectively fund preservation efforts that may span the country, seeking federal and state funds for preservation efforts as well.
GARY McCARTHY: I would expand both the city’s Permit Fee Waiver Program and the Greystone Initiative and would look into providing a property tax incentive for the purchase and remodel of historic buildings that have remained on the market for extended periods.
PAUL VALLAS: Please see my response to question 4 for context on this question. Overall, I believe that the federal Opportunity Zone capital gains tax benefits offer a rare opportunity to bring significant new levels of private investment to many of Chicago’s most economically depressed areas. I think the Opportunity Zone legislation can be especially valuable as a tool to spur private investment and save a significant portion of the City’s building stock that is currently at risk of demolition. As Chicago’s next mayor, I will work tirelessly to market these areas to potential investors and explore ways to leverage the City’s resources in creative ways that would outcompete other cities around the country.
SECTION 2: Sustainability and Reusability
If elected, what specific efforts will you make as mayor to promote and incorporate the reuse of existing buildings into the city’s sustainability programs and policies?
AMARA ENYIA: The report’s findings are closely aligned with my vision of a Chicago that works for everyone. These buildings house locally owned businesses, provide housing diversity and underscore Chicago’s history and culture. We need more flexible zoning including parking requirements and use restrictions. We also need expanded education for the development industry, elected officials and residents. As the saying goes, “The greenest building is an old building,” and we need to think comprehensively about deconstruction as job creation, home renovation as wealth creation and piloting innovations where historic preservation and sustainability are achieved in an equitable manner.
LA SHAWN FORD: I have been increasing my understandings of the carbon footprint of new construction and the waste that happens when we demolish existing buildings that can be repaired. I would encourage permit rules that would require a survey of existing buildings, in close proximity to any new development project. Building permits should only be granted for new construction when existing buildings in the area absolutely cannot address the stated need of the developer. There must also be economic incentives for developers to reuse existing buildings speaking to the cost differential between new construction and rehabilitation where cost may be a deterrent.
GARY McCARTHY: I would consider partnering city agencies with local nonprofits and using a vehicle such as the Illinois Abandoned Housing Rehabilitation Act as a method to assume abandoned homes, then piloting a program similar to the Large Lots Program, but with contractual caveats on demolition.
PAUL VALLAS: Chicago already has a strong reputation for environmental friendliness and leads the nation in the number of LEED-certified buildings. This is a strong foundation, but much more needs to be done to make Chicago a truly sustainable city. I think we must look closely at our building codes, which are often among the most stringent in the nation, to make certain that we are not incentivizing demolition of historic structures over adaptive reuse. As mayor, I would also work with the newly elected Cook County assessor to explore potential new ways to further incentivize redevelopment of Chicago’s historic building stock through programs like the Class L incentive program.
If elected, which of the study’s recommendations would you be willing to implement? (Select as many as desired for your response)
A. Adopt adaptive reuse policies within the Chicago Zoning Code
B. Reduce parking requirements for building reuse projects
C. Apply Chicago Building Code in a more flexible manner for older buildings
D. Support community development organizations, non-profit developers, and small-scale developers
E. Strengthen the use of financial incentives that support building reuse and explore the implementation of new financial tools.
AMARA ENYIA: All of the above
LA SHAWN FORD: I would be in full support of each of the policies listed above, all of which will move us closer to reinvesting in our city, and reducing our carbon footprint.
GARY McCARTHY: (Did not provide an answer)
PAUL VALLAS: I believe that all of these tools cited above should play a key role in guiding future development in Chicago, and I have already touched upon some of these elements in my responses to previous questions. It goes without saying that Chicago has one of the most beautiful and durable built environments not only in the nation but in the world. Our future success as an economy and a place to live must fully utilize that tremendous resource.
The public has complained about the poor quality of management by contractors in containing airborne particulate matter, which could be hazardous, during building demolition. What would you do to ensure the City provides public notice of a demolition project and enforce demolition procedures to protect public health?
AMARA ENYIA: The city should better leverage its carrot and sticks to ensure developers and contractors are good neighbors. This includes mechanisms for transparency in the zoning process, during construction and renovation, as well as demolition. I would propose enhanced notification through our electronic systems as well as on-site (posted) requirements. Working with aldermen, city departments and community organizations to improve notifications for all of these projects would be a top priority.
LA SHAWN FORD: There are rules in place, they simply must be prioritized in terms inspection. Additionally, community complaints must be acted on quickly, in the same way that parking violations are acted on quickly, which will serve to insure ethical practices among contractors during demolition and every other stage of development.
GARY McCARTHY: I would step up the requirements issued by the Department of Public Health, and I would ensure that when a demolition permit is obtained, it is properly posted in a way that would alert residents in the vicinity of any potential harms.
PAUL VALLAS: Since the earliest days of my campaign in April 2018, I have been emphasizing the need for Chicago to pay stricter attention to public health challenges throughout the city. This is especially true of lead contamination both in the built environment and the drinking water supply, which will likely require a large-scale replacement of lead service lines throughout the city. Lead dust stemming from building demolition must be treated as the very serious public health menace that it is. Stricter requirements and enforcement on containing lead-contaminated and other dust at demolition sites would not only provide for better public health outcomes but also may provide additional incentives for adaptive reuse.
SECTION 3: Chicago Landmarks Ordinance
The Department of Planning and Development’s Historic Preservation Division has experienced budget cuts and staff reductions stretching the staff as they create historic district plans, landmark designation reports and review building permits. Would you prioritize adding staff back to the Historic Preservation Division to manage its extensive responsibilities?
AMARA ENYIA: I propose an equity audit across the city’s departments to confront the city’s history of disparity. This audit would illustrate how to allocate resources fairly across the board including updates of the Historic Resources Survey, plans and policies along with sufficient funding and staffing including staff that understands the lived experiences of people throughout Chicago.
LA SHAWN FORD: I would prioritize a review of the needs of the division, alongside revisiting approaches to the work, and then work with the division to create staffing that speaks to the diverse needs of the city, across the entire city. The division should certainly have staff that is sufficient to address fair and wide reaching preservation in Chicago.
GARY McCARTHY: I would not make further cuts, but am unable to guarantee that I would be able to increase the amount of staff given the looming financial crisis. However, one of my priorities as mayor would be to modernize the various city departments, including the Department of Planning and Development, and ensure that they have adequate resources and are versed in timesaving technology to make their day-to-day easier.
PAUL VALLAS: For all its reputation as a global center of architecture, the level of municipal government resources dedicated to historic preservation is shameful. Cities a fraction of the size of Chicago, such as San Francisco, have far more staffing and financial support dedicated to historic preservation than Chicago does. I would look to build up this division to work with and spur further redevelopment and investment throughout the city, especially in our most economically depressed areas, where abandoned housing and other buildings present tremendous opportunities.
If you are elected, would you support an update to the city’s existing Historic Resources Survey? Revisions would include surveying post-1940 buildings and/or a re-survey of individual neighborhoods triggered by substantial redevelopment or at an alderman’s request.
AMARA ENYIA: Yes. We can’t protect what we haven’t inventoried.
LA SHAWN FORD: I would be in favor up surveying post-1940 buildings and addressing an alderman’s request. Our history is ongoing and did not stop in 1939. I would support a temporary hold on demolition of buildings challenged as historic, until updated guidelines can be put in place, to protect our expanding history.
GARY McCARTHY: Completed in the mid-90s, the survey took over a decade and cost $1.2 million to complete over 20 years ago. Taking into account inflation, but also new modern technology that might expedite this process, I would assume it could be completed much faster. I would be open to looking into this and pursuing state or federal support to complete it.
PAUL VALLAS: Yes, I believe an update of the Historic Resources Survey is justified given that the current one is now 30 years old. I would recommend consideration of all properties in Chicago for possible inclusion and not just the pre-1940 structures that were included in the original survey. Chicago has a wide array of noteworthy Mid-Century Modern building, especially in communities that were largely built following World War II that are worth protecting. There is growing appreciation for these structures and we should be careful to not let them be needlessly destroyed.
Do you believe buildings less than 50 years old should be given local landmark protection?
AMARA ENYIA: Such buildings should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The 50-year threshold has been a long-standing yardstick for what is considered “historic,” but we now know that there are many compelling reasons to revisit this hard and fast line particularly given Chicago’s rich stock of Modernist, Post-Modernist, Brutalist and other types of buildings.
LA SHAWN FORD: They should be eligible, and granted protection based on their historic significance.
GARY McCARTHY: Age is only one of many factors that should be weighed when deciding whether a building should be considered a landmark. For example, a newly constructed building could be an architectural marvel or culturally significant, and should not be discounted merely because of its novelty.
PAUL VALLAS: I believe that Chicago should dedicate itself to preserving all of its most noteworthy buildings regardless of the period in which they were built. While I suspect that far fewer more contemporary buildings would be worthy of protection than those from earlier periods, I would not want to prejudge those evaluations. Some buildings are just instant classics.
Would you support landmarking the James R. Thompson Center as an icon of Post-Modernism and making it eligible for financial incentives that would aid in its adaptive reuse?
AMARA ENYIA: Yes.
LA SHAWN FORD: I would support financial incentives for the James R. Thompson Center in a long-term plan, but certainly historically significant landmarks across the city would need to be prioritized. Spending on historic preservation must be shared across the city. Although our downtown spaces are important and serve us all, there is a bit of catching up to do in our diverse neighborhoods. Once there has been a great deal more investment across the city, I would certainly be interested in preserving this treasured architectural design.
GARY McCARTHY: Echoing Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune, I agree that demolition shouldn’t be the only option for the Thompson Center. I know that City of Chicago landmark status is the only way to guarantee the building’s preservation and additionally, that landmark status would open it up to grants that would allow it to obtain repairs that have previously fallen to the wayside. With that in mind, I would support landmarking it, but with caveats. I would like to see a balance struck between maintaining the unique structural integrity—particularly, preserving the atrium and cylindrical glass design—and modernizing the building to make it both more practical as well as aesthetically appealing. I found your group’s “Thompson Center Reimagined” to be a fantastic start, however, I would prefer to see an update to the pale red and blue color scheme to make this building coordinate with the neighborhood’s character.
PAUL VALLAS: I would strongly encourage the adaptive reuse of the Thompson Center, perhaps including the addition of a tower at its southwest corner as proposed by Helmut Jahn. I am deeply skeptical of the proposition that sale and demolition of the center would produce any meaningful financial benefit to Chicago or the State of Illinois. The estimated $40 million price tag of maintaining the CTA’s current Lake Street transfer station amidst a demolition of the Thompson Center illustrates how a project like this could quickly devolve into an epic government boondoggle for which Chicago is already sadly too well known.
If you are elected, would you support an amendment to the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance that would again allow the City Council to landmark places of religious worship without the consent of the owner?
AMARA ENYIA: Yes, and I am interested in other ways to protect and reuse places of worship including the mechanisms described above and enhancing demolition by neglect and other ordinances.
LA SHAWN FORD: I believe that issues of this nature must be handled on a case-by-case basis. The option should be present, but the community, owners and petitioners for historic landmark status should be encouraged to find resolutions together. In instances where this does not provide viable solutions, and historic buildings are at risk, then certainly language must be present in the ordinance that would permit the city to act in the best interest of the preservation of our shared history.
GARY McCARTHY: Yes.
PAUL VALLAS: Yes, I believe if may be time to revisit this aspect of the Landmarks Ordinance especially in light of the increased financial pressures many congregations are feeling as the result of dwindling congregations. The Archdiocese of Chicago has clearly indicated that it must shrink the number of active parishes around Chicago. This means that a number of is its landmark-quality buildings, among the some of the most magnificent buildings ever erected in Chicago, are facing new and daunting threats. I believe adaptive reuse of many of these buildings can be a way to help preserve them for future generations and landmarking them could be a key step in this process.
Many buildings that trigger a demolition delay due to their inclusion in the CHRS are architecturally significant, but don’t meet more than one of two required criteria for landmark designation due to lack of information regarding its original owner or architect. Yet these buildings often contribute to a neighborhood’s economy, historic streetscape, scale and character. If you are elected, would you support an amendment to the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance that would allow landmark designation based on one criteria rather than two?
AMARA ENYIA: Yes.
LA SHAWN FORD: I would support such an amendment and any other that would offer additional protections, within reason, for the protection of our city’s history.
GARY McCARTHY: I would consider supporting a caveat that would take the fabric of the entire neighborhood into account.
PAUL VALLAS: Yes, I believe that the current law does not go far enough to help protect our valuable architectural resources and more inclusive criteria for defining preservation worthy structures would provide greater incentives to preserve a better sense of place for Chicago’s communities.
Often, 90 days does not allow enough time for city officials and community advocates to find an alternative solution for a threatened historic building in demolition delay. An extension can only occur if the alderman requests it of the owner, who may not agree. If elected, would you support an extension of the demolition delay period to six months?
AMARA ENYIA: Yes, although I am committed to exploring other ways to support officials and advocates searching for alternatives for our most cherished buildings. This may include expanding who may request a delay beyond just aldermen.
LA SHAWN FORD: I would not support a blanket delay. I would, however, support an option for extension when the 90-day timeline in insufficient.
GARY McCARTHY: Yes.
PAUL VALLAS: Yes, I believe additional time to try to find alternatives to demolition could provide added incentives for preservation. I think an increase of mandatory “demolition-hold” periods would be a good step to reviewing possible alternatives to demolition.
SECTION 4: Your Favorite Historic Places
Is there a historic site, building or area in Chicago where you like to spend time, and why do you enjoy being there?
AMARA ENYIA: There is rich historic significance with every landmark in the city. As a student of history, I can’t get enough.
LA SHAWN FORD: The Pullman Porter museum is such an inspiration to me, because of all that it represents. The Pullman Porters formed one of the first black unions, black men at a time of severe inequity and lack were among the labor vanguard! That is so important to me. If they can fight that fight, against the violent racism of their time, putting their lives and their family’s lives on the line for justice and equity, certainly I can fight today. Their story is important to all of us seeking justice and a fair share.
GARY McCARTHY: My home. It is a former factory that is over a hundred years old that has been repurposed into condominiums and apartments. Despite the extensive updates, it still holds its original character.
PAUL VALLAS: During my tenure as CEO of CPS in the 1990s, I spearheaded a plan to rebuild and reactivate the historic Bronzeville Armory building, which played a key role in African American history but was in danger of demolition due to its badly deteriorated condition. Twenty years later, the building is still serving as a vital community resource and annually helping hundreds of disadvantaged students of color take important first steps to careers in the military. I am still filled with pride every time I revisit this facility and see it as a model of how government investment can play a key role in community revitalization.
Do you have any personal connection to historic preservation in the city?
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AMARA ENYIA: (Did not provide an answer)
LA SHAWN FORD: Our Lady Help of Christians was my elementary school. It was such a meaningful part of my coming of age on the Westside of Chicago. Many fond memories and childhood experiences were housed there. It was closed and ultimately demolished. I meant a lot to me, and I miss it. I wish it was a place that I could go to and support. Losing it really took something from me. This is a big part of my understanding of what it means to shut down a school, and certainly what it means to rip history from people, in ways that cannot be reclaimed. That space is gone for me. As mayor, I will not allow this city to be careless with these kinds of decisions and with the history that we hold inside of us.
GARY McCARTHY: I have always been passionate about history, having majored in it in college. With that, I have an understanding of the importance of maintaining physical reminders of the past, whether buildings or artifacts, and regardless of the location.
PAUL VALLAS: I was raised in a classic Chicago-style two flat in the Roseland community. Like so many other immigrant families, that building (which included a garden unit) served as a multi-generational hub of family life and also helped build our family’s financial resources as we made our way into the working and middle-class ranks of Chicago. I would hope that this type of arrangement would remain viable for many years to come. As city budget director in the 1990s, I was able to help lead the effort to develop a Greek-themed streetscape plan in Chicago’s historic Greektown area on Halsted Street. I believe this created a successful template that has since been replicated in a number of other communities throughout Chicago from Pilsen and Chinatown to Boystown. These streetscapes help create a stronger sense of place and I think also incentivizes more historic preservation.