South Chicago, celebrating its 180th birthday this summer, is the former home of three steel mills and the blue-collar workers who staffed the sites. But the last of the plants closed in 1992, and the exodus of well-paying jobs has hurt residents as well as the mom and pop store owners who serve the neighborhood.
Lira and other community leaders have been working with the University of Illinois-Chicago to help draft a revitalization plan to help transform Commercial Avenue into a proper business district. They think cultural attractions like “Shakespeare in the Parks” can play a major role in helping the area.
The area has embraced the event unlike any other, Lira said. He said a local pizza place gives a flier for the event with every pizza it delivers, and the McDonald’s hands a flier out to every customer at the drive-thru window.