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In the early 1990s, the Orr School Network (consisting of Orr High School, Continental Bank, and other organizations) focused its attention on West Humboldt Park’s high level of violence – both in the home and on the streets of the community.  The network formed the West Humboldt Park Family and Community Development Council in 1992, and initially the Council put together programs to combat domestic and street violence in West Humboldt Park.

As it continued its focus on community violence prevention, the Council expanded its outreach to encompass economic development.  Continuing to the present time, the community’s retail corridor in the mid-1990s was Chicago Avenue between Kedzie and Pulaski Avenues.  At the corner of Kedzie and Chicago, there was a dilapidated collection of commercial establishments that was a neighborhood sore spot.  The West Humboldt Park Family & Community Development Council (the Council) was awarded $350,000 by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to create a project at the site that would create jobs for local residents.  The Council partnered with a developer, Matanky Realty, to develop the site into a shopping center for the community and to create jobs for local residents.  The Matanky partnership leveraged the Council’s $350,000 grant into an approximately $4.3million construction project, which was used to create a large retail shopping center for the West Humboldt Park community.  The project was successful, creating more than 70 new jobs for local residents and space for more than 22 retail establishments and a City of Chicago office facility.  The Council was instrumental in bringing a second bank to the neighborhood, hoping to convince the bank to lease space in the shopping center.  Today, the shopping center remains a thriving asset in the community, and the Council continued to hold an ownership interest in the venture along with Matanky Realty. 

 Working with the Matanky organization in order to continue local job opportunities and to help ensure that businesses and services that occupy the center are consistent with community needs occupies a component of the Councils’ economic development mission  Other components of the Council’s economic development mission include working with the community to expand opportunities for local hiring and job training; working with the community and the City of Chicago to design and implement major street improvements on Chicago Avenue between Kedzie and Pulaski;  continuing to work with the community to organize and implement programs for the West Humboldt Park Business Association; and partnering with the local Building Employment & Entrepreneurial Partnerships (BEEP) in which the Council has had a long-standing interest. 

The Council lead the effort to designate Chicago Avenue from Karlove Avenue on the west to Albany Avenue on the east as a Special Service Area.