Chinatown to feel pain of Red Line reconstruction

Starting May 19th, getting to Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood will be more complicated than simply stepping off the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line stop.

For anyone looking to get to the area via train, the Red Line South reconstruction project will force a reroute to buses, the Green Line, car, bike or other transportation.

The project involves closing nine train stations from Chinatown/Cermak through 95th/Dan Ryan. The projected is expected to take five months.

While the many areas included in the project are expected to undergo changes once construction begins, Chinatown is likely see to a substantial impact on business, experts and business owners say.

“The Red Line is a lifeline for the dozens of small businesses in Chinatown,” said Dr. Joe Schwieterman, director of DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development. “They are going to feel the pain.”  
                                                                                              

During the closure, the CTA will provide an express shuttle bus service between the Roosevelt and Cermak-Chinatown stations, a one and one-half mile distance. Red Line trains will be rerouted to the nearby Green Line.

“It’s not going to be as convenient as it was because it was so direct before,” said Irene Tao, associate director of the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

According to the CTA, shuttle buses will run 24 hours a day, but those who will need to rely on them are unsure of how well they will serve as a replacement.

“The traffic could be bad due to shuttle buses … but on the other hand, shuttle buses might bring unexpected visitors that might be from the city but never visit or knew about Chinatown,” said Steven Lu, administrative assistant at the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

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The Chinatown-Cermak Red Line station will be closed from May 19 through Oct. 19 for the CTA’s Red Line Red Reconstruction Project. (Photo by Elizabeth Schuetz)

Lizzie Hinderhan works as a sales supervisor at Hoypoloi, 2235 S. Wentworth Ave. She said she thinks business will depend on how consistent the shuttle buses are.

“People probably won’t come if they have to wait for a while them,” she said.

Despite their regular customers who live in the area, much of the foot traffic in Hoypoloi comes from tourists traveling from downtown, according to Hinderhan. She said she and many other businesses nearby expect to see a decline once construction begins.

“I think business will be down 10 to 15 percent,” Ida Mui, a server at Moon Palace, 216 W. Cermak Road, said. “We’ll definitely be affected.”

Schwieterman said he thinks the project is not necessarily “going to wipe them out,” but it will be a difficult period of time for smaller businesses, especially those that rely on big weekend tourism business.

“I think Chinatown is already feeling pain of a flat economy and this is a one kick punch you might say,” Schwieterman said.

Said Mui: “Summer brings a lot of business. But we have no choice but to deal with this.”

The project will also require some schedule adjusting for current residents who take the Red Line outside of the neighborhood to school and work.

Jun Xu, 18, attends Lake View High School, 4015 N. Ashland Ave. Xu said his route to school will be disrupted by the construction and he will need to start his day much earlier. (Photo by Elizabeth Schuetz)

Jun Xu, 18, attends Lake View High School, 4015 N. Ashland Ave. Xu said his route to school will be disrupted by the construction and he will need to start his day much earlier. (Photo by Elizabeth Schuetz)

Jun Xu, 18, is a senior at Lake View High School, 4015 N. Ashland Ave., who travels 30 minutes a day to get to school. He said once the construction begins, it will then take him over an hour.

“I will have to get up at six, take the Orange Line to the Brown Line and then get on a bus,” Xu said. “I’m not excited.”

Gov. Quinn talks MAP funding at DePaul

Gov. Pat Quinn speaks at DePaul about MAP grant funding in Illinois Dec. 12. (Photo by Josclynn Brandon)

Gov. Pat Quinn speaks at DePaul about MAP grant funding in Illinois Dec. 12. (Photo by Josclynn Brandon)

By Angelica Robinson and Josclynn Brandon

Gov. Pat Quinn visited DePaul University’s Loop campus on Wednesday to discuss how pension reform is harming the Monetary Award Program (MAP) college scholarships and access to higher education in Illinois.

“This is so important to our state, not only in the past, but certainly now and in the future,” Quinn said. “We want everyone to have the opportunity to go to college that has the ability to go to college.”

MAP grants are need-based college scholarships that allow merit students who are in need across the state and do not need to be repaid by the student. Quinn said that due to cutbacks and having to pay more money in the pension amount, almost 18,000 students lost their MAP grant scholarships this year.

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Chicago nextScholars paves way for local students

View the visual journey of these young Chicago students.

By Audrey Plank, Elizabeth Schuetz and Phillip Shilling.

Despite 40 mile per hour winds and possible tornado warnings, students from over 80 different local Chicago high schools gathered together on Oct. 26 to attend the 4th annual Chicago Scholars Onsite Admissions Event at the UIC Forum.

While the morning was dark, dreary, and rainy, the atmosphere inside the UIC Forum was anything but. Amid interviews and introductions were cheers of joy and excitement as scholars gained admission and scholarships to national universities on the spot.

A student wades through the crowd. Photo courtesy of Phillip Shilling.

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Northern Illinois University, and Colgate University were just a few of the participating institutions stationed throughout the crowded room.

With set appointments at five self-selected colleges, over 300 students were able to meet with admissions counselors, like Diamond Weathersby from Columbia College, to learn of whether or not they were qualified applicants for the upcoming school year.

However, in order to attend this event and possibly finalize their college career plans, participating students were to have researched and applied to these five schools before the September school started and also after attending summer college preparatory workshops.

Chicago Scholars is committed to partnering with organizations working with high school counselors and students from lower-income households, like CircEsteem, Deloitte Scholars, and LINK Unlimited, to provide individualized college counseling.

With $1 million worth of financial aid awarded each year and about half of admitted students being the first in their families to attend college, Chicago Scholars works with students in advance to avoid the anxiety often experienced at this stressful time.

Help with application and essay completion along mentoring support for both students and families is provided so that when it is time to make the big decisions, scholars are well prepared.

The Chicago Urban League, one particular organization participating in this past October’s event, works to provide African American children with the tools, programs and experiences, to reach their full economic potential. They strive to ensure that children are well educated and prepared to succeed in the local economy.

A student interviewing for university admission. Photo courtesy of Phillip Shilling.

Daisha Daniels, of Morgan Park High School in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, was one particular Chicago Urban League member to attend and commit to a university at the Onsite Admissions Event.

After a brief interview with Northern Illinois University’s admission counselor, Richard Tom, she learned of her definite admission. She was then able to review final admission requirements and how to go about applying for financial aid.

While many high school seniors learn of their college admittance through letter and e-mail notification, they often do not get immediate advising from university counselors. Daniels discussed her interests and potential majors and was given concise advice on how to settle on one in particular.

“It’s awesome to be able to admit students on the spot and to make their day,” said Weathersby. “This early in senior year, to really have them seal the deal, it’s much more rewarding than I ever could have fathomed.

Weathersby also stressed the importance of finding the proper fit at a university and that tuition, financial aid, available courses, as well as student diversity, are all extremely valuable aspects to be aware of prior to decision time.

Chicago Scholars strives to provide such students with as many college options as possible.

For example, Erin Baker, 17, another Chicago Urban League member and Morgan Park High School student, was able to get accepted to both the University of Arizona and University of Illinois at Chicago at the event.

“It helps students know what to improve on when applying to schools outside of this,” she said. “And it’s fun to know you are accepted really early.”

A final decision is made. The celebration begins. Photo courtesy of Phillip Shilling.