What is PARC?
Promoting assets, reducing crime. The Promoting Assets and Reducing Crime (PARC) initiative began in 2015 under the collaboration of Aurora Health Care, Harley Davidson, Marquette University, MillerCoors, and the Potawatomi Business Development Cooperation. The PARC team was designed to directly support the Near West Side’s Mission, “to revitalize and sustain the Near West Side as a thriving business and residential corridor, through collaborative efforts to promote economic development, improved housing, unified neighborhood identity and branding, and greater safety for residents and businesses.”
The PARC initiative takes a two-pronged approach to community development by promoting the assets of the seven neighborhoods and working to improve the safety of these areas. The promoting assets aspect of PARC is focused on improving the area’s perception by addressing the underlying circumstances that led to violence, improving the housing stock, and attracting new, flourishing businesses. The reducing crime aspect of PARC focuses on evidence-based practices developed by the Community Prosecution Unit and Near West Side Ambassadors to identify problem places and community actors.
Since its establishment in 2015, PARC has helped generate economic development, enhance quality of housing, improve public safety, and produce an inclusive community in the city’s Near West Side. The year 2020 was unlike any other due to the Coronavirus Pandemic but the PARC team acted quickly and made the necessary adjustments to carry the Near West Side’s mission. I sat down with members of the PARC team and talked about the wonderful things they were able to do in 2020:
Bobby McQuay, community outreach and safety manager, highlighted his three favorite initiatives of the year 2020. In 2020, NWSP staff members successfully taught members of the resident committee how to navigate several virtual meeting platforms such as WebX, Zoom, and Google Meets. Members of the resident committee typically range in 55-65 years of age and had no prior experience with the virtual meeting platforms. Another initiative that Mr. McQuay was a part of was the holiday give away sponsored by Family Dollar and College Court, a senior and disabled adult living center, in which they provided money for Christmas Trees and holiday decorations. Lastly, McQuay helped facilitate a gift card giveaway. The NWSP were able to give out approximately 30 $50 gift cards to NSW residents with the support of Milwaukee Foods.
In 2021, Bobby McQuay is working on the NWSP security camera initiative, which include cameras from 27th wells through 27th state to identify problem areas and actors.
Kelsey Otero, Co-chair of Commercial Corridor and Economic Development, recapped the Rev-Up MKE, a shark tank style competition for entrepreneurs to start up or expand their business. Past winners include Pete’s Pops, Triciclo Peru MKE, Hands in Harmony, and KalyANa Organics.
Sherri Walker and Pat Kennelly, Assistant Director and Director of the Center for Peacemaking, started a Made in Near Westside series, which featured a series of demonstrations lead by Near Westside businesses, primarily restaurants. The series featured demonstrations from Lisa Kaye Catering, Pete’s Pops, and Triciclo Peru MKE. To support the local business during the Pandemic, a stipend was given to all businesses who participated.
Barb Scotty, Neighborhood Coordinator & PCORE Resource Officer, with the help of other NWSP staff organized a farmer’s market known as the Vliet Street Oasis. The initiative started with two produce stands in a vacant lot but transcended into a larger farmers market accessible five days out the week with produce stands, a bakery stand, and raw vegan stand. Barb also worked on CNI action activities such as neighborhood makers, the mural project, and the storefront improvement program.
Lindsey St Arnold Bell, Associate Director of Near West Side Partners, focus on the housing aspects of the PARC team. Bell works closely with the Live, Work, Play initiative which began for employees who were either considering purchasing a home in the NWS or renting. In 2020, the program expanded it eligibility to employees or current residents of the NWS interested in purchasing a home. The NWSP were also able to secure emergency rental assistance for residents and businesses who were impacted by COVID-19 closure, costing about $10,000.
In 2020, the NWSP Data Team, Constance Kostelac and Aleksandra Snowden carried out data collection for many components of the Choice Neighborhood Initiative Transformation Plan. These components include: Health, education, assets (nonprofits, churches, etc.), land use, transportation, employment and population breakdown, and safety data. Also, the data team helped inform the writing and submission of the Journal of Higher Education and Outreach article on NWSP and the PARC initiative as well as conduct the first all virtual survey. For the first time, the data team added stress and health questions. Lastly, the team helped influence and define performance metrics for NWSP’s 2020+ Strategic Plan.
In 2020, the Patient Centered Outcomes Research for Employees of the Near West Side (PCORE), Co-led by Abiola Keller and Daniel Pinto, received additional funding from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute to support Near West Side employers during COVID-19. The PCORE panel’s goal is to work with employers to develop initiatives centered around health and well being to improve the quality of life of employees in the NWS. In the future, the PCORE teams hopes to increase the number of employees on the panel.
Why work on the PARC team?
The overwhelming response to why member choose to work on the PARC team is comradery. The member of PARC enjoy being around like-minded individuals who appreciate evidence-based practices to help improve the life and wellbeing of the residents of the Near West Side. The PARC team members want to ensure that the Near West Side can be a place where people live, work, and play.