Petition Closed

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. 

Letter to
Mayor, City of Chicago Rahm Emanuel
Alderman, 24th Ward Michael D. Chandler
Commissioner, Department of Buildings Michael Merchant
and 1 other
Commissioner, Department of Housing and Economic Development Andy Mooney
I just signed the following petition addressed to: Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Michael D. Chandler.

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Stay the Demolition of 3411 West Douglas Boulevard

The City of Chicago Department of Buildings has taken court action to demolish 3411 West Douglas Boulevard, 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. I have attached a link to a writeup from Preservation Chicago for further information regarding the building. http://www.preservationchicago.org/userfiles/file/shepherdstemple.pdf

I respectfully request that the City of Chicago stay the demolition of such an important landmark, acquire the building and set aside emergency funds to stabilize the building with an intent to provide and/or raise additional funding for planning and redevelopment of the building taking into account community input. Ideally, the building could be converted into a community center, providing a place for cultural artifacts from the North Lawndale community; an auditorium for public meetings, live performances, etc; and office space for nonprofits and small businesses. This would serve as a branch of the Chicago Cultural Center, and interface with other public and community agencies, including the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Library, Chicago Public Schools and community based organizations. This would be the anchor for community activities, and include state of the art technology centers, actual and virtual exhibits of our rich history and culture across the entire timeline of the community’s history; provide research resources to our libraries and schools and jumpstart the cultural revolution that is so desperately needed in our community. This could also spark redevelopment around arts and culture and a sense of place.

An alternative use would be an office space for an agency of the City of Chicago. Funding streams could include funds from the US Department of the Interior, Illinois DCEO, TIF funds from the Midwest TIF, Community Development Block Grants and private funds from foundations and corporations who have demonstrated commitment to the community and being a good neighbor.

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.

In closing, I thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

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Sincerely,