Dennis O’Neill moved to Little Italy from Hinsdale, Illinois in 1980. He received his undergraduate degree in bioengineering and MBA in marketing and finance from UIC.
He has a thirty six year history of volunteer civic involvement in Chicago in issues of public education, historic preservation and public parks. He helped organize efforts to successfully save the Hotel St. Benedict Flats at 801 N. Wabash Ave., the Tree Studios and Medina Temple at 600 N. Wabash Ave., the Lakeshore Athletic Club at 850 N. Lake Shore Drive, and was instrumental in preventing CVS Pharmacy from demolishing a Victorian building on the north east corner of State and Division Streets to build a retail, chain pharmacy brick box with a drive through pharmacy and worked to have CVS instead reuse the existing building.
In the area of public education, he served two years on the Jacob A. Riis Elementary School Local School Council in the mid-1990’s. Riis served the children of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) Jane Addams Homes on Taylor Street and it was closed/demolished during an early redevelopment phase of the CHA’s ABLA Homes–Addams, Brooks, Loomis & Abbott. In 2010/’11 he organized and led an initiative that resulted in opening Chicago’s first public STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) school, the STEM Magnet Academy located at 1522 W. Fillmore Street, which is a reuse of Jefferson School, also closed during an early ABLA redevelopment phase. He worked with community residents in 2012 to form Connecting4Communities to activate citizen engagement to address issues of lack of access to high quality public education and to work to make the ABLA redevelopment–one of the nation’s largest redevelopments of federal public housing as a mixed-income community–successful. ABLA’s redevelopment, known as Roosevelt Square, began under the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Developments HOPE VI Program and federal legislation in the mid-1990’s designed to transform the nation’s notorious public housing into mix-income communities.