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The renaming of Jacato Drive to Anthony Lane and the ribbon cutting for a new addition to the COP House wasn’t just about cake and ribbon on Thursday.
The gathering was about a community coming together to make a neighborhood better.
Charlie Clarke, a principal of both Kinzie Racine, LLP and Evanston, IL-based Kinzie Realty Corp., is spending upwards of $3 million to rehab every unit, hallway and basement in every building of the Maples Apartments, but he said that work can only go so far if the name of the street still makes people think only of the area’s troubled not-so-distant past.
The community-wide effort to transform Jacato Drive to Anthony Lane was a bold statement that included putting a community policing house into the neighborhood because it averaged 59 calls a month, now it’s two a month. The transformation included issuing citations to the landlords for building code violations, working to find new developers as the apartment buildings went into foreclosure, and helping to support the developers through the rehabilitation process, said Mayor John Dickert.
“So today we’re not just renaming a street,” Dickert said. “But, soon this whole street you will not recognize, and then we move on to other neighborhoods.”
But for Martesse Johnson and his girlfriend, Aida Franklin, the celebration underscored that they had made the right decision to move from the south side of Chicago to Racine just nine days ago. Johnson wanted to be closer to his eight-year-old daughter, who lives with her mother in Racine, because she has been in trouble and he knew he needed to spend more time with her.
Moving to the Maples Apartments turned out to be life-changing because of all the support he found in the area.
“It’s beautiful,” Johnson said. “It’s heaven.”
In Chicago, Franklin and Johnson lived in a home that had fallen into disrepair and had rats, but when they moved nine days ago, they found a community that cared. Because the Ernest and Bernice Styberg COP House has a community center, it’s equipped with computers and a place for Johnson’s daughter to get homework help.
“People here care,” Franklin said.