CHICAGO (WLS) --In a big push to revitalize what was once one of Chicago's most affluent South Side neighborhoods, city leaders introduced a new economic development program for Chatham Wednesday.
The name of the overall project is the Greater Chatham Initiative. U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush appeared at the newly renovated Studio Movie Grill in Chatham to announce the first phase of the project, which entails reinvesting in Chatham and other nearby neighborhoods.
"Today marks a new beginning for the South Side of Chicago," he said.
The Initiative expects to bring jobs and business investments to the neighborhoods.
"We have to do it because it's in the interest of the city to have thriving neighborhoods through the city of Chicago," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Rep. Rush and several Chatham residents, business executive and politicians began working together two years ago to look for solutions to violence and decline in the neighborhoods. The catalyst for the group to organize was the murder of a beloved teacher, Dr. Betty Howard, whose family was in attendance Wednesday.
"Just to know that she lived her life and even her death, that people love and respect and honor her," said one family member.
"It made me feel proud of her as a person whose ending could bring a positive beginning, a brighter future for other people," said another family member.
The Studio Movie Grill is one of the first businesses to benefit from the reinvestment, and Chatham residents were impressed.
"It was like wow. This is cool. And it's competitive with the other theaters like Icon and AMC that are downtown," said Frances Strickland.
"It's really nice actually. You know they have the recline-back seats, it's really nice. And it's really great to see, again, that people are starting to invest in the black community," said Daniella Pruitt.
There was a time when living in these neighborhoods - Chatham, Auburn Gresham, Greater Grand Crossing, Avalon Park - were known to African American families as being "on the come up" - a symbol of status and pride. Some of those working on the initiative grew up in these communities, and aim to help the families who live there now.