Arts, Sports Inspire Chicago Redevelopment

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor One of Chicago’s neighborhoods currently under reconstruction displays artistic finishes, thanks to Theaster Gates, an artist, musician and “cultural planner.” Gates conceived the Dorchester Projects in an effort to revitalize the city’s Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood. [...]

One of Chicago’s neighborhoods currently under reconstruction displays artistic finishes, thanks to Theaster Gates, an artist, musician and “cultural planner.” Gates conceived the Dorchester Projects in an effort to revitalize the city’s Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood. Over the past five years, Gates and a team of fellow artists and architects have renovated four buildings and turned them into affordable housing units for artists or artists’ colonies.

Theaster Gates moved to Grand Crossing about five years ago because he needed to be closer to the university. He was also looking for a place where he could create art—and he found a 1,200-square-foot former deli/candy store that he converted into his home by using recycled wood and stone. Back in 2008, when the housing market started to fall, the artist saw good opportunities in foreclosed or abandoned buildings on his block. Though the area was known and feared for its high crime rate, Gates found ways to make a difference in this community and de-stigmatize it. For example, a group of abandoned low-rises near 70th Street and Story Island Avenue will be turned into an artist community for the Chicago Housing Authority residents who have an interest in the arts. This way, Gates hopes to leverage the artists’ role in neighborhood redevelopment.

In other city development news, a new cycling center might get the green light in the South Loop. The cycling center, which will be called The Chicago Velo Campus, will be built on the lakefront at 87th Street, the former site of the huge U.S. Steel South Works plant. It will have a racing track for cyclists and will provide indoor and outdoor mountain bike courses. Also, there will be an Olympic-size swimming pool, a fitness center, restaurants, shops, a cycling museum, a community center and an elevated indoor 400-meter running track with a beautiful view over the lake.

The cycling site will be a major redevelopment with residential and commercial units. The velodrome is estimated to cost $40 million and construction is set to begin in 2013, while an outdoor cycling track will be opening this summer. There will reportedly be a three-day Dave Matthews Band concert to showcase the cycling center in July.

According to Emanuele Bianchi, president of the Chicago Velo Campus, the center will help bring cycling into the culture of the South Loop, both for older people who decide to be more respectful of the environment and for young people who are looking for new recreational activities.