The City of Chicago Department of Buildings has taken court action to demolish 3411 West Douglas, an historic synagogue and the former home of Friendship Baptist Church, that has hosted Martin Luther King Jr., when he lived in the North Lawndale community on Chicago's West Side. The building is not structurally sound and poses imminent danger to the local community. The current owners are not able to finance the necessary costs to stabilize and renovate the building, which exceed over $1 million.
With over 1,500 vacant lots, North Lawndale has more vacant buildings and lots than any other community in Chicago, other than Englewood, to the best of my knowledge. The result has been decreases in population, increase in blight, the creation of environments that encourage crime and general reduction in the number of historically and culturally significant buildings. When the cultural assets of a community erode, everything else falls apart. Children’s education becomes less well rounded and relevant and students’ ability to think critically and understand their roles in society decreases. The economic base becomes less diversified, providing fewer opportunities to create a sense of community pride or destinations for tourists, who, in turn would patronize local businesses.
Redeveloping this building could create an anchor for community and economic development around its heritage and culture; connect local community organizations, Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Schools, and Chicago Public Libraries; instill community pride, and create a destination for tourists.
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