The CHA high-rise located at 2822 S. Calumet must have been a convenient location for the families who lived there until recently—especially for those with school-aged children. Dunbar High School is less than half a block away to the south on Martin Luther King Drive. And directly across Calumet, just a few steps away, is the John B. Drake Elementary School.
Today 2822 S. Calumet is empty. It was one of the buildings vacated during the recently completed second phase of the CHA’s relocation plan. When the relocation process began last spring, 120 of the building’s 203 units were occupied. The last residents moved out at the end of September.
Awaiting eventual demolition, 2822 S. Calumet now stands vacant in the midst of a dense, vital South Side neighborhood. It is sandwiched between two large, well-managed, middle-class developments—South Commons to the west, Prairie Shores to the east—that are home to many city workers, police officers, and employees of the nearby Michael Reese Hospital and McCormick Place convention center. Apart from the elementary school, its immediate neighbors on the block are the 2nd Ward Streets and Sanitation office at 29th and Calumet and the 21st District Police Station at 29th and Prairie.
In view of the CHA’s long experience with the human and legal consequences of failure to secure vacant units [see “In Memory of Eric Morse” – Parts I and II], and in view of questions that have been raised about its handling of contracts for securing vacant units [see “Denial of Access to Access Denied”], one would expect the housing authority to have taken care to secure 2822 S. Calumet and other recently vacated buildings adequately during the interval between closing and demolition.
In fact, one can easily see—from a block away or driving past on King Drive or looking out a window at Prairie Shores or South Commons—that 2822 S. Calumet is wholly unsecured. On all four sides of the building there are window openings that anyone—including a child—could easily climb through.
Vacant Property Security [VPS], the recipient of millions of dollars of contracts from the CHA over the last few years, was responsible for securing the building. At some point during the last two months—since the closing of the building at the end of September—VPS secured door and window openings on the first three floors using metal panels. Today 25 of the 88 openings are open. VPS panels lay on the ground or hang askew from the building, as small children pass by on their way to and from school.
These conditions are due to poor workmanship. Many of the panels do not fit the openings, leaving large gaps that make it easy to pull them off.
The VPS warehouse is located eight blocks away at 2540 S. Federal. How many times in recent days have VPS staff driven past the panels—some of them emblazoned with the VPS name and phone number—dangling from window openings at 2822 S. Calumet?
How many times have CHA staff going to and from meetings at various sites on the South Side or commuting to and from their homes driven past the obviously unsecured high-rise?
A Streets and Sanitation driver who works out of the facility next door said that 2822 S. Calumet had been in its present condition “for at least three weeks.” It would be interesting to know how many complaints the City, the CHA and VPS received during this period from people who live and work in the area.
The only call I am aware of was made on the afternoon of December 4 by Peter Bately of Access Denied, VPS’s principal competitor, to Duwain Bailey, CHA’s director of operations, to alert him to the dangerous conditions at the building. At that time, Mr. Bately requested that The View not publish any information about or images of the conditions at 2822 S. Calumet until the problem had been addressed, for fear of attracting anti-social activity to the unsecured vacant building across from a school.
As we post this story, a VPS crew is at 2822 S. Calumet beginning to restore the panels.
More than any evidence we have presented to date in our ongoing coverage of physical conditions that threaten the safety of CHA residents and their neighbors, the hazardous conditions at 2822 S. Calumet raise inescapable questions about the CHA’s ability to manage contracts, monitor performance, and make necessary adjustments when contractors do not fulfill the terms of their contracts.