December 2011

On Dec. 8, MPC’s Board of Governors approved an ambitious work plan for 2012. It builds on notable achievements in 2011, such as the Bus Rapid Transit study, passage of Public-Private Partnership enabling legislation, and $29 million invested in housing and economic development activities in South and West Cook County.

Where We Stand

We’re excited about the agenda we’ve sketched out for the coming year … from breaking new ground with Commute Options and Bus Rapid Transit, to scaling up our interjurisdictional and water work. Take a look at “MPC by the Numbers: 2011 Edition,” a numeric snapshot of our most rewarding milestones this year, and you will see why we’re feeling optimistic about 2012.

For instance, we now have 35 communities working together and with MPC to solve shared development challenges through interjurisdictional collaboration, reached upwards of 1,000 people through forums on water issues, and recruited nine employers for the Commute Options pilot – to name just a few.

By no means an exhaustive list, “MPC by the Numbers” is culled from data and indicators MPC tracks on a quarterly basis to measure our progress on both policy and on-the-ground wins. These figures represent hours of work by staff and volunteers to achieve a more sustainable, equitable and competitive greater metropolitan Chicago region, and they motivated us to aim high in 2012. We hope they inspire you, too.

Project Progress Report: Gary and Region Investment Project

Some 500 people from Gary, Northwest Indiana, and greater metropolitan Chicago filled the Genesis Center on Dec. 13 for “Gary: City of Promise,” a conversation with the city’s Mayor-elect Karen Freeman-Wilson. The new leader has high hopes – and even better, a strategic plan and an open invitation to “sincere” public and private sector partners – to make Gary “the next comeback story of the Rust Belt.”

MPC Vice President Peter Skosey, who also spoke at the event, said MPC looks forward to playing a role in Gary and Northwest Indiana’s new, unfolding story through the Gary and Region Investment Project (GRIP), a joint effort with The Times of Northwest Indiana. Through GRIP, MPC is bringing national and regional attention to well-poised, high-impact investment opportunities in this critical part of the Chicago region.

At the second event in the ongoing GRIP Urban Exchange series, some 75 business and civic leaders gathered at the East Chicago Marina on Nov. 30 to swap regional economic development ideas with Audrey Russo, president of Pittsburgh’s Technology Council. At the Urban Exchange, Bill Hanna, executive director of the Regional Development Authority (RDA), discussed how Northwest Indiana is beginning to attract new businesses through a regional reinvestment strategy. The RDA, which is becoming a national model for regional economic revitalization, has targeted $511 million – most of it from outside the region – to clean up and provide greater access to the Lake Michigan shoreline, improve the region’s public transportation, and expand the runway at the Gary-Chicago International Airport. These investments are paying off, as evidenced by Allegiant Air’s decision to fly out of the Gary-Chicago International Airport – the airport’s first regularly scheduled service in three years.

Gary and Northwest Indiana’s urban core are ripe for redevelopment – so much so that staying focused will be a challenge. Freeman-Wilson has addressed this concern by establishing near-term and long-term priorities for Gary. She also has pledged to partner with the RDA, GRIP, Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority, Indiana Economic Development Corporation, “and all other community organizations sincerely interested in advancing the economic interests of the City of Gary.” This openness to regional partnership is welcome and, in tandem with a focused redevelopment plan, will rewrite Gary and Northwest Indiana’s story.

Principles of Placemaking

Aside from a Payless Shoe Source on the ground floor, the entire Morris B. Sachs flatiron building, at 2800 N. Milwaukee Ave., in Logan Square, had been vacant and deteriorating for the last 20 years.

Today, the historic landmark, located at a prime six-corner intersection in one of the neighborhood’s key commercial corridors, has a new lease on life. Brinshore Development has transformed the building’s upper floors into the LEED-certified location of the Logan Square Community Arts Center and Hairpin Lofts, four stories of affordable apartments. A prime example of the Placemaking Principle of Triangulation, the redevelopment also has sparked economic revitalization in the surrounding area, including new restaurant developments and the renovation of an old theater.

MPC Headlines

Housing + Community Development

Water + Transportation

MPC in the News

Will Rahm Emanuel Show America What BRT Can Do?
Streetsblog, 12/19/11

Use Allegiant as magnet for growth
The Times of Northwest Indiana, 12/17/11 

Gary’s rebirth requires many midwives
The Times of Northwest Indiana, 12/14/11

'Mi Parque' Wins Metro Chicago Illinois Contest, 12/7/2011

Area panel suggests commuting alternatives
Chicago Tribune, 12/2/11

News of Interest

The Incentives War Between the States
NPR, Changing Gears series, 12/20/11

New Report Highlights the Benefits of Housing Counseling in Preventing Foreclosures
National Housing Conference Open House Blog, 12/21/2011

35th Ward Student Active Transportation Plan moves forward
Active Transportation Alliance Write of Way Blog, 12/21/2011

Health Benefits of Ciclovia Events Outweigh Costs
Streetsblog, 12/21/2011

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