Wight is also active in Bronzeville. There, we were involved with the adaptive reuse of a decommissioned public school, transforming it into a 70,000-square-foot union hall for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134. The building houses offices, conference rooms, lounges, a museum and a rooftop patio, as well as meeting space and a gymnasium open to local residents. Large, 25-foot IBEW logos were printed on the exterior glass and backlit by LED lights, helping to draw in local residents, who now refer to the building as the “Beacon of Bronzeville.”
Another neighborhood project is the Chinatown Branch of the Chicago Public Library, which has become much more than a place to read and borrow books. The library functions as a civic, educational and social hub for the entire Chinatown neighborhood. It includes a meeting area, children’s zone and connected atrium.
Other examples abound where neighborhood development, whether ground-up construction or the adaptive reuse of long-blighted properties, has made a real difference, lifting communities financially and through the civic pride these projects instill.
In her victory speech, mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot declared, “We can and we will give our neighborhoods – all of our neighborhoods – the same time and attention that we give the downtown." We couldn’t agree more. Development doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, downtown versus the neighborhoods, and now is the time to flip the script and work together to create a more equitable Chicago.