Teens shot hours before mayor's event

August 31, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Chicago's Woodlawn community is getting a $30 million grant to help improve conditions in the neighborhood.

The secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development was on hand to make the announcement. It was greeted with both hope and skepticism by people in the community.

There is hope, because Woodlawn residents welcome any help they can get, but skepticism because so many past redevelopment efforts have failed. Others wondered if the elected officials were doing some pre-election year politicking.

There was no street in Chicago Wednesday with more political big shots on it than the 6200-block of South Cottage Grove. Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan from Washington was joined by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Congressman Bobby Rush and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to announce a $30 million federal grant to help redevelop the Woodlawn neighborhood.

"We are going to make a difference in Woodlawn. Rest Assured, we will make a difference," said Donovan.

"Of course, we knew that President Obama would never forget his hometown as long as Mayor Emanuel, Senator Durbin, Congressman Rush were there to remind him," said Durbin.

HUD chose Woodlawn for the grant hoping to build on the success of the newly-constructed Grove Parc Section 8 apartments.

But some Woodlawn residents told ABC7 the need in their neighborhood is jobs, as they remembered other government programs that failed.

"We're sick of the dog and pony show," said community activist Rev. Andre Smith. "We're sick of the entertainment that pops up because of the election to give you a great speech. Our community is suffering."

"The hundreds of jobs it's gonna bring, all of the hard hats we see here, that's what we're celebrating," said Donovan.

But many of the hard hats Secretary Donovan saw were plastic props worn by men who say they can't get construction jobs in their own neighborhood.

"This right here is plastic, but it's people out here with the real hard hats on too," said Woodlawn resident William Minter.

"We want to make sure that we send a subtle message that we're expecting some jobs," said Rev. Leon Finney of the Woodlawn Organization.

The grant would focus on a neighborhood only three blocks south of the University of Chicago, which last week pledged to invest over a billion dollars of its own money in nearby development.

"Anchor it, strengthen it and allow it to build beyond these four walls," said Mayor Emanuel.

But crime -- including an overnight quadruple shooting only blocks away from Wednesday's ceremony -- remains a problem.

Chicago police say the shooting happened at approximately 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. One or more shooters fired several shots at the teens while they were on a porch.

An 18-year-old was shot in the lower back. The other teens were shot in the legs and thighs. All were hospitalized in serious to critical condition early Wednesday but were expected to recover.

And, when development does happen in Woodlawn, residents wonder who will get the work.

"I think it's an insult to build and have developments in front of people, in front of the residents and not allow them to work," Rev. Smith.

Congressman Rush noted the federal money arrived in Woodlawn before Wednesday's event with Secretary Donovan.

There are also concerns about the University of Chicago's development plans. Will people who live in West Woodlawn today be able to remain there if property values and taxes begin to rise dramatically?

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