Welcome to the Southwest Organizing Project’s (SWOP) website. We are glad you are here. We hope this website will give the institutions, leaders, and residents of the Southwest Chicago community the opportunity to connect with one another, tell their stories, and build power for change in the community.

Expanding Reclaiming Chicago From Vacant Homes to Vacant Stores

When the Sears store at 62nd ST. and Western closed over ten years ago, it left a big hole in the Chicago Lawn community.  Gone were the opportunities for families to shop at a major department store.  Soon, the Jewel grocery store and the movie theater were gone as well.  Left behind was a large swath of vacant land that neither provided shopping opportunities nor jobs for community residents.

As SWOP’s Reclaiming Southwest Chicago campaign began to show real success in reducing the large numbers of vacant buildings, reducing violence and helping local schools improve in the community around 62nd and western, SWOP member institutions decided that now is the time to work to reactive that space.

The first step in this process was a community meeting on April 23rd at Churchview Senior Campus to discuss the site.  The goal for the meeting was to build a vision of what was possible for the site and to build support for implementing the vision.  More than 65 community stakeholders, representing more than 20 SWOP member institutions and local allies attended.  They learned about traffic patterns, current land ownership and potential types of development from architects at JGMA and about challenges from Ghian Foreman from the Greater Southwest Development Corporation.  James Matanky, who now owns the vacant movie theater, was there to lend his support.

Working in small groups, they identified ideas they wanted to see implemented at the site.  They talked about a full-service grocery store.  They talked about sports complexes for soccer and baseball.  The talked about a warehouse and distribution center for internet retailers. They talked about the impact of potential development on their institutions, and about who else should be at the table. All of the ideas were collected and will be used as planning for the site moves forward.

This potential development effort is a part of the Southwest Corridor Collaborative (SWCC), an economic development initiative with SWOP, Teamwork Englewood, and the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation in partnership with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Chicago. The SWCC initiative has gotten commitments of $50 million to support retail/commercial and job creation projects along the 63rd Street and Halsted Street corridors

This was just the first step in what will be a long process for redeveloping the site at 62nd and Western.  But if the first meeting is any indication, there is a lot of enthusiasm for bring this site back to benefit the community.

For more information on this effort, please contact David McDowell at dmcdowell@swopchicago.org.

Want to read more stories about SWOP’s work?  They are all here.