cares about Chicago and understands its politics. You don’t see that in
too many universities. They’re not as close to the surrounding
Juan Rivera & Kevin Jackson
What happens when people come together and build?
Kids can come together and play.
“Six years ago we took a closer look at West Town,” recalls Juan Rivera, director of the Latin United Community Housing Association. “UIC’s Voorhees Center prepared a market study on demographic trends. We discovered overcrowding and a lot of single moms. We took a plan to the community and then presented it to the city. It became a $7.5 million project. Single moms making very little money now have nice, affordable apartments. Their kids have a place to play, to study—they’re not on the streets.”
Those families represent Alan Voorhees’ vision of a better life for city residents. The legendary urban planner funded the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement in UIC’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs to provide research and tools for local organizations. Voorhees strongly believed that public institutions could improve the human condition.
Juan sees that spirit at work today. “UIC cares about Chicago and understands its politics. You don’t see that in too many universities. They’re not as close to the surrounding communities.”
Kevin Jackson, executive director of the Chicago Rehab Network, Chicago’s largest coalition dedicated to Affordable housing, agrees. “We have a 60-percent jump in housing prices, but stagnating income,” he says. “The Voorhees Center is there with us—helping analyze neighborhood change so we can advocate for affordable housing policies. We’ll call on Janet Smith, its co-director, to make sure our recommendations are on track. The center is that kind of sounding board. They’re a leading example of a community/university partnership.”