C4C & elected officials welcome UIC’s new Chancellor, Dr. Michael Amiridis, and many positive changes to our community

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Connecting4Communities hosted a reception for UIC’s dynamic new Chancellor, Dr. Michael Amiridis, on Monday, June 1st to welcome him into our community. We would like to thank the many UIC faculty, and administrators, and their international guests from Coventry University in the U.K., along with State Senator Patricia Van Pelt, Alderman Jason Ervin, Alderman Patrick Daley Thompson, the head of the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization, all of the community leaders in public education, and Father Richard Fragomeni, Pastor of the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, for helping us welcome Chancellor Amiridis. Every person in attendance has been actively engaged in C4C’s work in housing, education, and community building. We deeply appreciate their engagement.

There are important changes taking place at UIC and in our community; those at UIC are an important part of a larger picture of profound change in how the University of Illinois system is being governed and managed under astute new leadership. They are, in part, a response to the challenges Illinois faces, to changes in higher education, and to the increasing globalization of economies driven by technology and other factors. In our community we face significant challenges in housing, public safety, and education. Fortunately, we have many more opportunities for positive growth that we can realize. The above slide show is a walk through time of some parts of UIC’s east campus that captures some of UIC’s growth over time as well as photos from our reception for Chancellor Amiridis.

C4C has long been working with the 012th District Police to successfully lower the rate of homicide rate and other gun violence in our community. In 2012 and ’13 it was among the highest in the entire District, and it largely centered around Barbara Jean Wright Court which is across Maxwell St. from Smyth School. You may have read about the murder that took place at Barbara Jean Wright over the violent Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately, things have begun heating up again in that area. In response, C4C and Smyth Principal, Dr. Ron Whitmore, reached out to the new UIC Chief of Police for help. Although the new UIC Chief of Police has only been in office a short time, he responded immediately and began setting up a mentoring program with a group of officers after he twice visited Smyth to get an understanding of what some of the issues are in our community. We are working with community partners, including UIC, to change the dynamic between police and residents in our community. The 012th District is also under capable new leadership. The previous 012th District Commander, Melissa Staples, and the officers of the District very effectively reduced violent crime in our community. We thank her and the officers of the 012th District for their leadership and wish Melissa Staples well with her new and increased responsibilities in the Chicago Police Department.

UIC campus maintenance is being totally revamped and it shows. The east and west campuses have seen substantial improvements in capital maintenance for buildings, landscape design, and grounds maintenance. Getting UIC’s grounds and other maintenance improved has been a decades-long endeavor of mine as the photos in the slide show above demonstrate.

If Governor Rauner releases the funds for the Advanced Chemical Technology Building (a project long overdue as it’s been on the drawing board for over a decade), the north east corner of Halsted St. and Roosevelt Rd.,  which is a “gateway” entrance, will be much nicer than it is presently. The building will, at a minimum, be LEED Silver but is expected to reach or be very close to LEED Gold. In order to reach this level, significant landscape improvements and storm water retention will be required. The budget currently supports these efforts. The longer the delay the more the cost increases and, thus, also the potential that the building may lose some of these very important elements. Just imagine that corner landscaped in a manner similar to the wonderfully redesigned north east corner of Taylor and Morgan Streets.

UIC Parking Lot 1 at Harrison St. and Racine Ave., across the street from the UIC Pavilion, will be undergoing significant work. UIC will add approximately 100 trees to Lot 1 as part of the plan.

The Peoria Street overpass of the Eisenhower Expressway is nearly completed as part of the Jane Byrne Interchange redesign. The entry to the UIC campus from the Peoria Blue Line stop will not only be a significant landscape improvement, it will also improve pedestrian safety. The Alderman has agreed to support the installation of a traffic signal to control traffic midpoint on Harrison. UIC will be picking up most of the costs of the traffic signal.

Finally, and maybe the most exciting, is the acquisition of the old Com Ed substation located near the Art and Architecture building behind the UIC student housing at Halsted and Harrison Streets. The last of the old walkways that used to cover the campus have been removed as part of this project. UIC has an agreement in principal with Com Ed for this acquisition but needs to resolve some environmental issues. If UIC and ComEd can reach resolution, the area will be transformed into another spectacular green space on campus. This would add nearly three quarters of an acre of green space to the campus and our community. UIC is making a significant investment to acquire this property despite financial challenges because Chancellor Amiridis understands and fully supports this important project.  The power of dynamic, intelligent, experienced, and committed leadership at the largest urban public university in our state will be critical to achieving positive growth in our community and to successfully addressing our challenges. We welcome that leadership into our community.