MLK's 1960's Chicago residence redeveloped

April 4, 2011 5:02:09 AM PDT
The historic address where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., lived while he was in Chicago is being redeveloped as a testament to his life and legacy.

The site has been dormant since it was destroyed in the 1968 riots following his assassination.

He moved to Chicago in 1966 to fight for fair housing.

"I'm sure that Cicero would be one of the communities where we would have to march because it stands as a symbol... surrounding the whole question of discrimination in housing," King said around that time.

"Just marching with him in Cicero - it was unheard of," said Rev. Randall Harris, president of the West Side Federation of Chicago. "We just didn't go to Cicero, because we knew they were going to run us back over here."

Harris's group was instrumental in bringing King to Chicago in the 1960s.

It is now one of several groups working with the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation to make the West Side location where King and his family called home an active tribute.

What has developed is the "Dr. King Legacy Apartments," a 45-unit newly constructed residential building with six retail spaces. The focus is on affordable housing.

"The rents start at $238 a month for a two-bedroom, and the highest rent you'll ever pay here... is about $989," said Kim Jackson, executive director of the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation, saying that higher rent would be for a four-bedroom unit.

The historic address: 1550 S. Hamlin is in the North Lawndale neighborhood, an area where poverty is high and opportunities for employment are few.

"There has not been any new development here on 16th Street for over 40 years," said Jackson.

The group is hoping to attract practical businesses like a dry cleaner, grocery store and a family restaurant. They will be anchored by the MLK Fair Housing Exhibit Center set to debut in 2012.

"The Fair Housing Act of 1968 actually came out of his campaign and his initiative here and we want to showcase and highlight that," said Jackson.

The hope is this project will not only provide affordable housing but also educate others about King's Chicago connection. They hope it also marks a rebirth in a community where challenges often outweigh triumphs.

Monday marks the anniversary of King's assassination.

Martin Luther King III will be in Chicago on Sunday to be the keynote speaker at a gala celebrating the grand opening of this building.

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