CHICAGO — A plan to breathe new life into the one South Side neighborhood while helping released prisoners get back on their feet is receiving support and pushback.
The project is part of a larger effort to revitalize the 63rd Street Corridor in Englewood.
Community organizers are moving forward with plans to transform the former Granville T. Woods Elementary School, which has sat vacant at 62nd and Racine for a decade, into the ‘Regenerator’ – a 60,00 square foot housing facility for people released from prison.
The building would have roughly 36 apartments where ex-convicts could live with their families.
“It can help heal where those families have also been traumatized when their family is in prison,” said Cecile Demello of Teamwork Englewood. “You hear them say that all the time, ‘I did that time with my loved one.’ So this is about healing, it’s about restoration.”
The $12 million regenerator project will also offer job training, medical services, a legal clinic, indoor gym, outdoor playground, dining space and a garden.
Asiah Bulter of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood said she hasn’t heard of any pushback but added that she would be surprised if locals were critical of the plan.
Englewood resident Sherry Cameron did voice some concerns while speaking with WGN News.
“That sounds good but at the same time, those people really have to be checked, as far as their background because when you think about bringing in other people like that in a community with people that have always been in the community, there’s going to be a little clash,” Cameron said. “If it was for a sex crime or something like that, then you have to be fearful for your children.”
Organizers aren’t sure yet if they will restrict offenders who commit violent crimes.
Their goal is to reduce recidivism by re-purposing this space, said Asiah Bulter of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood.
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“A lot of folks, when they do, unfortunately, go to jail, mentally have reformed. They don’t want to go back in. They want to be productive citizens,” Butler said. “So we really want the ‘Regenerator’ to regenerate them as a family, as a person and as a citizen back into our community.”