Chicago’s Avalon Park is named after its park of nearly 11 hectareswhich has a gym, tennis courts, baseball diamonds and a swimming pool.
This pool has been open at least five days a week this summer, despite a citywide shortage of lifeguards, according to Shedrene O’Neal, chair of the Avalon Park advisory board.
“It’s just a wonderful thing to see people in the pool when you walk around the park and hear the kids screaming and laughing and splashing around,” O’Neal said. “I love this park because it’s a hidden gem…we try to keep it a secret.”
The council formed in 2019, but soon after many plans were scuttled by the pandemic.
O’Neal now has new plans like community partnerships, programs and activities for young people – whether learning about vocations or anti-violence role-playing lessons.
“In the morning, starting at six o’clock, we have the elderly here doing their nature walks,” O’Neal said. “They are creatures of habit. Same time every day. It’s a beautiful thing.
O’Neal seemed to know everyone. Since moving here 18 years ago, O’Neal said she started every morning at the park.
Other events are planned in Avalon Park, including Movie in the Park from the park district. They present “King Richard” on Friday August 5th.
Interactive map: More information on our community reporting series
Another heart of the Avalon Park community: its commercial corridor.
“I tend to look at a lot of our vacancies and opportunities to really brand and build the community you want,” said Frankye Payne, executive director of the Southeast Chicago Chamber of Commerce. “Everyone has an idea of what they want the community to feel and Avalon Park is a really great space and opportunity to do that. 79th Street is a main thoroughfare that leads directly to the lake, to the Obama Center …there is a lot going on.
The Obama Presidential Center will be a stone’s throw from Avalon Park in Chicago’s Woodlawn community.
State Representative Marcus Evans, whose district includes Avalon Parksaid he also wanted to see improvements all along Stony Island Avenue, with the traffic it brings.
“People come from all over the world,” Evans said. “We want to make sure residents of Avalon Park are safe along Stony Island and, of course, continue to see the avenue embellished with the Obama Library. We want to be included in the development for sure…Avalon Park will be a big beneficiary, especially when it is operational.
Evans himself owns a bungalow in Avalon Park.
Video: Watch our full interview with State Representative Marcus Evans.
According in the US census, approximately 9,500 people reside in Avalon Park; approximately 95% of residents are black.
Payne said the murder of George Floyd, the ensuing unrest and the pandemic have shone a light on disinvestment and the need for resources in black and brown communities.
Since then, more state and city grants, such as the the city’s Invest Southwest programbecame available, allowing the chamber to do more of its work supporting small businesses, helping family shops develop websites and point-of-sale systems, providing security and beautification.
Payne said the post-pandemic struggles will be an opportunity for the chamber to lean in, listen and help.
“We are very fortunate to have a community of residences owned by the house,” added Payne. “With this property there is a long line of people who were here in the 70s and are here now and remember the busy and prosperous hallway they had. [They] miss this and want more.
The local Chamber of Commerce focused on supporting the murals painted by local artists such as Max Sansing and others who achieved national and world fame.
These beautification spots are on a public visit to the region.
Meanwhile, school leaders, like Principal Douglas Maclin of the historic Chicago Professional Career Academyspent their time preparing for the new school year.
“We’re very unique here,” Maclin said. “We are the only school in the district that is an early middle school, STEM, and offers career and technology programs. From information technology, cosmetology, cooking, diesel… you name it. We are really excited to continue as well as engage with new partners coming in…it revitalizes our school. Our freshman enrollment has increased by more than 60% this year.
Preservation talks are underway for Chicago Vocational Career Academy, also known as Chicago Vocational High School (CVS).
It’s an 81-year-old building that once housed more than 5,000 students, according to Maclin. Last year they had around 630 students, and this year they are expected to have over 700.
“The district is constantly looking for new ideas on how we can restore ‘The Palace,'” Maclin said in reference to a former school nickname. “All these types of conversations are always a good thing. Community stakeholders, parents, alumni come and talk about “how can we achieve the goal of restoring pride to the Palace”. Preservation talks are still ongoing. When we figure out exactly what the community wants our school to do and how they can help us, then we can finalize the answer to this question. »
Video: Watch our full interview with Douglas Maclin, director of the Chicago Professional Careers Academy.
Located just blocks from CVS, Ramona and Curtis Pouncy are the proud business owners of Avalon Park’s signature skating rink on 87th Street.
“I’m one of the owners of The Rink Chicago,” Pouncy said, emphasizing the word the. “Like Ohio State, Chicago Ice Rink. There’s no place like this on earth.
The rink has been around since 1975, but has been closed for seven to eight months due to renovations.
The Pouncy have added fresh coats of purple and orange paint, a refurbished ice rink and a neon starry carpet.
Lots of updates, but still, the Pouncys said, they keep the old-school flavor and aim to be nostalgic.
Pouncy skated there growing up, and now she and her husband Curtis want the local kids to do the same.
“We have the rink, we need to make it the best and safest place for families to come, children to have fun… save lives. Pouncy added. “We have around 400 young people when we are fully open on a Friday evening. That’s 400 kids in that building doing what they do, loving music, exercising.
She and her husband don’t know when the rink will reopen, but they hope to have the grand opening soon enough.
Community Report Series
“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re taking to the streets to talk with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we went and what we learned using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Dots in red represent our COVID-19 Across Chicago series; blue marks our “Chicago Tonight” series in Your Neighborhood.