GRAND BOULEVARD — The Illinois Institute of Technology and ComEd are working on an app that will teach people about Bronzeville — and they want neighbors to weigh in.
The app will help people take walking tours of the neighborhood while providing information about its history and residents. Sam Long, an IIT alumnus and Bronzeville resident, envisions the app having something for everyone to learn about Bronzeville. He also sees it as an opportunity to dispel the notion Bronzeville is “dangerous.”
“IIT students are told not to go south of 35th Street, so it can alleviate those fears. It could appeal to a younger audience looking for entertainment options and an older audience connecting to the historic aspect of Bronzeville,” said Long, who graduated in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and master’s of engineering in construction engineering and management.
Alicia Bunton, IIT’s assistant vice president of community affairs, thinks the app could be something “big, significant, historical and permanent, all at the same time,” she said.
While lakefront proximity and public transit access drew Bunton to the neighborhood, its rich history has kept her there, she said. Learning local lore has made Bronzeville feel more like home — so when ComEd approached the university to collaborate, “heck yes” was the only answer, Bunton said.
“If you’re not going to the Chicago History Museum or researching various databases, it’s easy to not know what’s in the community. The goal is to create an app that will also combine elements of ‘Humans of New York,’ embedding a bit of storytelling,” Bunton said.
Bunton said the app could feature the voices of jazz musicians and enthusiasts who would share anecdotes about interesting spots in the community.
The team is hosting four hour-long community input sessions beginning 10 a.m. Friday via Zoom to get feedback. People must email email@example.com to register.
Friday’s input sessions will be the first in a series in which residents and others will be able to share their vision for the app. The development team will meet with residents throughout the process, eventually producing a prototype that will be refined into a final app that aligns with the wants of the community.
ComEd also hopes the community engagement will help teach residents about the technologies the company is bringing to the neighborhood, said Emily Kean, Smart Grid programs manager.
The utility company has been working on a microgrid cluster that would link with IIT’s microgrid to prevent outages during storms and other disastrous events, Kean said. The microgrid is set to be fully operational this year.
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