The Chicago region is among the most segregated in the country – the result of a century of racially motivated disinvestment in which the built environment (the physical structures and spaces available to people) was used as a tool to disconnect communities of color from opportunity, separate them from each other and from white neighborhoods, and extract their wealth.
To understand these inequities, examine the locations of new schools, parks and transit stations that have been built in the past 25 years. See where investments have been made to create thriving business districts while others struggle for financing. Notice where key assets such as universities, hospitals and municipal buildings can play a role in positive change.
Our failure to fix this structural flaw and the problems it causes has made race and equity top priorities among some of the region’s most influential institutions and decision makers. As a result, new planning, policy and finance tools are being introduced, including:
- The City of Chicago’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund will leverage investment in the downtown area to support redevelopment in underserved neighborhoods.
- The new Chicago Community Catalyst Fund will invest $100 million over three years to finance real estate and business ventures in disinvested neighborhoods.
- Healthy Chicago 2.0 was developed and guided by the Health in All Policies approach. The city’s Health in All Policies resolution calls on city departments, including the Department of Planning and Development, to consider health impacts in all policy areas and collaborate to mitigate root causes of health inequities.
- The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) partnered with the Urban Institute to release a groundbreaking report, The Cost of Segregation, on the economic impact of segregation and what it costs the region’s economy and potential.
- Equitable Transit-Oriented Development (eTOD) and neighborhood resiliency against climate change are regional and national priorities of the Center for Neighborhood Technology.
- The Chicago Community Trust, the region’s community foundation, is deeply committed to promoting equity for all residents.
- Retail Thrive Zones aims to strengthen the economic vitality of eight neighborhood commercial corridors. Each of the Retail Thrive Zone corridors, located on the Chicago’s South, Southwest, and West Sides, have economic challenges, but they also have strong potential for growth. Within those corridors, the city will offer an evolving package of financial assistance to entrepreneurs and business.
- Enterprise Community Partners has made equity in transit-oriented development and access to healthy housing priorities for Chicago and the Midwest.
We are now at a catalytic moment: There are tools (like the ones named) being used to promote an inclusive built environment. There is a racial equity movement driven nationally by SPARCC. And, there are local leaders and projects that are ready to receive capital and grant dollars to get started.
By pairing the tools, movement, people and projects with our growing institutional readiness to address racial equity, communities with transit stations emerge. These stations can be viewed as nodes of opportunity designed to connect rather than separate.
Building on existing planning efforts with significant community engagement, Elevated Chicago is positioned as the facilitator that can implement such plans by understanding, aligning and deploying resources, building capacity in communities, and removing entrenched structural barriers.