Chicago Community History

State Street sidewalk

Photo: Jongyoun Jung
Reaffirming its historic commitment to the mid- South Side, Illinois Institute of Technology today works closely with the City of Chicago, community organizations, and residents on a host of projects designed to revitalize and redevelop the neighborhood surrounding its Main Campus.

The university's institutional commitment to its birthplace and its vision for the rebirth of the mid-South Side have been demonstrated in recent years through a variety of educational opportunities for young area residents, and through exciting new residential and commercial development plans and initiatives.

When other area institutions and residents decided to move to the suburbs and other parts of the city after World War II, IIT instead expanded its Main Campus, now considered one of the 200 most important architectural sites in the country. In 1946, IIT and Michael Reese Hospital formed the South Side Planning Board to begin a redevelopment plan for the area. Soon afterward, Mercy Hospital decided to build a new hospital on its old site.

IIT approaches its relationship to the community in many ways:

- In partnership with community leaders, residents, and organizations, and the City of Chicago, IIT is working to rehabilitate the historic Bronzeville neighborhood to the immediate south of the Main Campus.

- IIT is developing a master plan for refurbishment of its historic Main Campus, consistent with the vision of the great architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who designed the campus and many of its individual buildings.

- IIT initiated the Urban Parade of Homes, with more than 60 new homes built in the nearby Gap community, representing an investment of more than $10 million.

- IIT sponsors the Discovery Approach to Science Enhancement (DASH) program in the summer, to prepare ninth- and tenth-grade minority students for careers in engineering and science through a discovery process of learning and achievement.

- IIT's Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program, open to ninth- to twelfth-grade girls interested in math, science, and engineering, offers young people mentoring from successful women scientists and engineers. Participants use college-level laboratories to conduct experiments, and engage in problem-solving exercises.

- The Young Scientist Summer Camp exposes young people to a rigorous four weeks of training in geometry, calculus, biology, physics, chemistry, architecture and communication, to prepare for careers in health and medicine.

- A unique joint project by students at IIT's College of Architecture and the Harvard Graduate School of Design was the first inter- university effort in the country aimed at developing an urban renewal strategy for a specific neighborhood--the 35th Street corridor between Lake Michigan and U.S. Cellular Field.

- IIT students, faculty and staff work with and monitor the progress of students from area schools, including the university's "adopted" school, Douglas Community Academy. At the holiday season, IIT holds a toy drive for the schoolchildren.

- The Teachers Academy for Mathematics and Science (TAMS), located on IIT's campus, is the brainchild of Dr. Leon Lederman, Nobel laureate in physics and IIT's Pritzker Professor of Science. TAMS helps improve Chicago public schoolteachers' skills in math and science, which in turn enhances their students' understanding of these critical subjects.

- Through a grant from the McCormick Tribune Foundation, IIT stimulated the formation of the Mid- South Planning Group, which has grown to involve area community organizations, development corporations, the City of Chicago, and historic preservation groups.

- IIT has hosted trade fairs to help minority, female, and small business owners learn about IIT contract and purchasing procedures. The university hosts many other community events on campus, including meetings of area local school councils, architecture exhibits, science fairs, public housing conferences, training sessions for community leaders, and the summer Pro-Am basketball league, which allows young people who cannot afford to see NBA games to enjoy professional-quality basketball competition.