In 2014, something called “The Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project Award” went to a company called Related Companies for Parkway Gardens Homes.
The Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards cited the company for giving “new life to a storied housing development.”
Apparently, it didn’t matter that, the same year, the low-income housing complex was also labeled the “the most dangerous block “in Chicago.
Called “O Block” and located in the 6400 block of South Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, this section of Parkway Gardens is glorified in rap videos for killings that have occurred there.
Indeed, while Parkway Gardens is often highlighted as the early childhood home of former first lady Michelle Obama, gang-bangers revere it as the place where 20-year-old Odee Perry, a reputed gang chief, was gunned down in 2011.
Follow @MaryMitchellCSTBetween 2011 and 2014, there were so many shootings in this area that a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of police data found it was the most dangerous block in Chicago in terms of shootings in a three-year period.
Now the latest trouble there: The housing complex is where 11-year-old Takiya Holmes was fatally shot in the head when an alleged gang member fired erratically at rival drug-dealers.
With the help of concerned citizens living in the complex, Antwan C. Jones, 19, was quickly arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Last year, Parkway Gardens was the site of another shocking murder, when a stray bullet killed Nykea Aldridge, the 32-year-old cousin of Chicago Bulls star Dwyane Wade, while she was pushing a baby stroller.
Also, in the 6400 block of South King Drive last year, stray bullets struck a 4-year-old in the face and a 28-year-old woman in her bed on the same night.
And that’s only an inkling of the mayhem.
If you read the daily reports on gun violence, something soon becomes apparent. Too many shootings are happening around Parkway Gardens.
Why violence has been allowed to run rampant in a housing development that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places is a mystery.
But there are clues.
While the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Chicago Housing Authority were dismantling public housing in Bronzeville and along the State Street corridor, hundreds of impoverished, low-income renters apparently moved into this historic housing complex.
Today, all 694 units on the one-acre site are Section 8 rentals.
Parkway Gardens was built in the mid-1950s as the first cooperative owned and managed by African Americans. HUD took over the property in the ’70s and sold it to private investors.
Related Affordable, a division of Related Companies, and Wells Fargo & Company acquired Parkway Gardens in August 2011. The company invested $100 million in renovating the property and installed an 8,410-square-foot turf field for nearby Dulles Elementary School, according to news reports.
The company did not respond to phone calls for comment.
In 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Related Companies, then-Ald. Willie Cochran and other civic leaders attended a ribbon cutting to celebrate the grand “reopening” of Parkway Gardens Apartments.
“As a direct result of this private partnership, here at the Parkway Gardens we are investing in a path to a brighter future for our children that starts with a supportive home,” Emanuel said then.
Obviously, no one anticipated that the same social ills that made public housing unlivable for so many would develop at this housing complex.
According to the records kept by the Illinois secretary of state, Parkway Gardens Residents Council dissolved in 1994, and the Parkway Gardens Tenant Association dissolved involuntarily in 2016.
Of course, not everyone in Parkway Gardens is involved in criminal behavior. The horrendous crime against Takiya would not have been solved had concerned residents refused to step up. But violent disputes between rival gangs are a fact of life in Parkway Gardens.
And the owners of this property are not being held accountable.
Why is that?