Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Living next door to Barack & Michelle

CHICAGO. Jacky Grimshaw is a respected and experienced policy maker who once worked in Chicago’s City Hall. She is now a vice president of the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), a prominent non-profit organization committed to sustainable development in American cities.
When I met her in her Chicago office a few months ago she gave me an interesting insight in the work of her organization (more about that later on in this blog).
But I couldn’t wait to pop the question that was really on my mind:
What was it like to have Barack Obama and his family as next door neighbours?
Shortly before I met her, Jacky (right) and her husband Bill Grimshaw had made the front pages of many major newspapers in America and around the world.
The reason was that they put their century-old 17-room house in Kenwood on Chicago’s South Side up for sale. No big deal, if it wasn’t for the address: 5040 South Greenwood Avenue.
The Grimshaw residence is next door to the Kenwood home of president Obama and his family.
Jacky Grimshaw is well acquainted with both Barack and Michelle Obama. But the neighbourhood changed when the Secret Service moved in well before Obama was elected president. Passing through security checks became routine for the neighbours whenever the Obamas were in their home.
Living next door to the president-elect had its advantages for someone lobbying for something as important as sustainable urban policies. Obama once shot a campaign film inside Grimshaw’s house, and Jacky got an opportunity to present her case.
“While he waited for the filming to begin I had a chance to go through material we had prepared at CNT”, said Jacky Grimshaw.
The house is still up for sale by the real estate agent, listed for $1.849.900. Perhaps potential buyers realized that they wouldn’t see much of their famous neighbour who, according to the Chicago Tribune, has made few visits to his home since becoming president.
Or maybe they didn’t pass through the scrutiny of the Secret Service.

The well protected South Greenwood Avenue.

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