Chicago Planning Commissioner Focuses on Disinvested Neighborhoods

A new initiative seeks to bring investment dollars to Chicago communities that for decades have suffered from the loss of wealth and population.

December 29, 2019, 5:00 AM PST

By Camille Fink


iofoto / Shutterstock

Oscar Perry Abello reports on a kickoff event for INVEST South/West, a new Chicago neighborhood improvement initiative, and the vision of the city’s new planning commissioner, Maurice Cox. The initiative will bring $750 million to the South Side and West Side of Chicago, areas that historically have struggled with disinvestment.

"Rather than being proactive in coordinating city dollars across agencies, the planning department has been more reactive, mostly responding to developer applications for tax increment financing (TIF) dollars, other local subsidies, or zoning changes to clear the path for new luxury developments," says Abello.

One of Cox’s goals is to better coordinate planning efforts to stop development patterns that have favored wealthier North Side neighborhoods. He expects that public investment in South Side and West Side communities will draw private investment.

Several factors could help Cox’s vision become a reality, including the Cook County Land Bank Authority and strong community organizing in these areas, notes Abello. However, redlining of homeowners and small businesses is still an issue. "There’s a long history of broken promises to the South Side and West Side, and Cox is coming to terms with that," he adds.

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