8TH WARD ALDERMAN BRINGING TRANSFORMATIVE PROJECTS TO WARD

Michelle Harris has been the 8th Ward Alderman since 2006. PHOTO PROVIDED BY ALDERMAN MICHELLE HARRIS.
Michelle Harris has been the 8th Ward Alderman since 2006. PHOTO PROVIDED BY ALDERMAN MICHELLE HARRIS.

8TH WARD ALDERMAN BRINGING TRANSFORMATIVE
PROJECTS TO WARD


By TIA CAROL JONES

Alderman Michelle Harris has represented the 8th Ward for 16
years. Harris started off working in the 8th Ward office, where
her aunt Lorraine Dixon, was the Alderman. She eventually
became Dixon’s South Side Chief of Staff.


The 8th Ward Aldermanic Office has been at the same
location, 8539 S. Cottage Grove, for more than 40 years. To create consistency throughout the years, the phone number is also the same. “People know where we are, they know where to reach us. I’ve been here on Monday nights for the last 16 years, I rarely miss a Monday night of Constituent night,” Harris said.

For three years, Harris worked as the Secretary for the
Cook County Board of Commissioners during John H. Stroger’s
tenure as Cook County Board President. In 2006, Harris was
appointed 8th Ward Alderman.


On average, the office takes an average of 400 calls a week.
Harris described it as a busy, service-oriented office that handles
everything from garbage pick-up to lights being out to potholes.
Over the course of a year, Harris said the office handles between
10,000 and 12,000 calls. She described the ward as busy and
demanding and the office works hard to solve the constituent’s
problems.


Ald. Harris has never been in a run-off, despite having challengers for her seat. Her staff has been a support system that works with the constituents. Some of her staff have worked in the office for about 10 years.


“This job is a 24-hour job, it doesn’t stop at 5 o’clock
because you’re not in this building. It keeps going. I love this
ward. My opponents want to always talk about the negatives,
but I fail to see her for her faults. I see her as a diamond in the
rough. Kind of like a beautiful diamond that needs to be polished,” Harris said.

Alderman Harris is all about transformative projects coming
into the 8th Ward. Justice of the Pies is coming to the Ward
as part of the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, which provided
grants to business owners on the South, Southwest and West
side commercial corridors. A children-focused braiding and nail
salon is coming to 87th and Cregier. Fatburger is coming to 87th
near Cottage Grove. There is a Nursery School set for 87th and
Avalon. Huddle House has been open on Stony Island, giving
residents options for a sit-down restaurant in the community.
Also, there’s S2, another sit-down restaurant that opened in the
last two years.


There are 54,000 people in the 8th Ward, which goes from
71st North to 103rd Street South, and West to King Drive.
Harris said the Ward needs a new shot in the arm. While Seniors
might want to leave their homes, they don’t want to necessarily
leave their communities. There has been a move toward the
building of Senior Homes in the Ward, and the demand is high.
There is a planned development, Imani Senior Village, at 95th
and Cottage Grove. It will include a five-story structure, with a
wellness center, fitness center, salon and rooftop deck.


Alderman Harris believes she has let a legacy for kids,
with building parks, which leaves a sense of community. Jesse
Owens Park has gone through a renovation, CVCA has been
renovated and updated, with a Chicago Family Health Center
adjacent to the building, which is also available to the community.
During the first term, Harris built the new South Shore High
School. Theaster Gates and Rebuild Foundation’s St. Laurence
School, which is set to become an arts incubator, also is in the
8th Ward.


Another project in the 8th Ward is the Regal Mile Studios,
which is set for 78th and Stony Island and South Chicago. It will
include 12 soundstages. Harris has been working on the project
for around five years.


“When I do these projects, I do them because I think it will
benefit other people here in the Ward and it will help the Ward.
Every time you do something new, every time there’s a new
investment, you can just see the community just start to blossom
around these projects. It’s a labor of love for me now,” Alderman
Harris said.

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