Community development that encourages re- vitalization while discouraging displacement gets a boost with Apostolic Church of God’s newly-released Woodlawn Central Master Plan, a commissioned redevelopment schematic built around guiding principles that counter traditional, problematic gentrification.
“There’s no way to contain our excitement about how we are re-envisioning the future of Woodlawn,” said Dr. Byron T. Brazier, pastor of Apostolic Church of God. “In commissioning and drafting this plan, we considered every nook and cranny and every possible avenue toward sustained great- ness. We considered what it takes to prevent uprooting the folks who belong here, who have long been here invested in strengthening the community.”
Located at 6320 South Dorchester in historic Woodlawn, Apostolic Church of God launched in 1932. Dr. Brazier has served since 2008 as pastor of the 20,000-member congregation, which had previously been led by his father, pastor and activist Bishop Arthur Brazier, for 48 years.
Woodlawn’s iconic history is a staple of the city’s famed South Side. Among its well-noted denizens have been playwright Lorraine Hansberry, Illinois Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks, Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens and many others. It is also home to portions of the esteemed University of Chicago campus and the planned Obama Presidential Center.
While the area also is rich in history and assets, it also has its share of social and economic distresses of late, including dramatically changing demographics. Without balancing intervention, these shifts may threaten its economically-marginalized residents.
The Woodlawn Central Master Plan has potential to counterbalance these dangers. Highlights of the multifaceted plan focus on hyper-connectivity, walkability, improved public transit, preservation and promotion of existing neighborhood assets, introduction of new technologies and sustainable infra- structure.
“Apostolic Church has a long-standing, celebrated and historic connection to the Woodlawn community,” Dr. Brazier said. “Our strong cultural ties and passion for the area are central assets and stand at the heart of our plan. We have every intention to aid in growing and evolving the neighborhood. It’s our home, too, and we regard it with passion.”
Woodlawn concurrently is also the focus of the City of Chicago, through its Department of Planning and Department of Housing, for revitalization and re-investment, with particular focus on the planned Obama Center and the University of Chicago. The city adopted the Chicago Plan Commission’s Woodlawn Plan Consolidation report last year in May. The plan is an amalgamation of various community-driven plans that nonprofit organizations, neighborhood groups, and other parties authored for the Woodlawn community.