Community initiative fuels North Lawndale's revitalization - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Community initiative fuels North Lawndale's revitalization

Since the late 1950s, North Lawndale has faced serious community and economic development challenges. However, thanks tremendous community initiative and valuable neighborhood assets, a long overdue neighborhood revitalization appears to be underway.

Since the late 1950s, North Lawndale, a community located five miles west of the Loop, has faced serious community and economic development challenges, primarily due to disinvestment. These haven’t been subtle, slow transformations over the years, but drastic and sudden changes that have dramatically altered the neighborhood; there were roughly three times as many people living in the neighborhood in 1960 compared to 1990. Fortunately, a number of key assets in the neighborhood have remained: great access to transportation facilities, a quality building stock, and obvious retail opportunities. Today, with tremendous community initiative, a long overdue neighborhood revitalization appears to be underway.

According to an August 1, 2005, report published in Crain’s Chicago Business, North Lawndale ranked as the fifth most active development community in the city, an important indicator that underscores the increasing presence of home rehabilitation and nonprofit infill projects. The City of Chicago has responded to community investment efforts by spending more than $32 million upgrading the neighborhood infrastructure, including improvements to North Lawndale’s 174-acre Douglas Park, its Blue Line stop, and a new fire and district police station.

Community-based and city investments are attracting the attention of quality developers who have committed to redeveloping formerly vacant sites, such as the Sears Roebuck and Co. headquarters. Upon completion of two separate development projects, Homan Square and Sterling Park, nearly 2,000 mixed-income residential units will overhaul the former Sears’ site and create new housing opportunities as well as valuable jobs for the community.

North Lawndale has been successful in attracting socially desirable development in part because its residents recognize the importance of being proactive. In 2004, residents embarked on a community-based zoning remapping strategy guided by MPC and supported by the Steans Family Foundation. Through this remapping initiative, residents learned zoning fundamentals. Project participants then used their training to collect building condition data and identify assets they would like to preserve and challenges they would like to address. Their data was compiled into a comprehensive digital map that now serves as a tool for residents to work with their alderman on community initiatives.

MPC looks forward to working with North Lawndale residents in 2006 to develop a complete zoning report that reflects community concerns, fosters its renewed sense of neighborhood life, and facilitates additional community-based initiatives.

Click here to read North Lawndale ’s Quality of Life Plan.

Click here for a list of North Lawndale ’s current nonprofit developments projects.

Click here for maps of North Lawndale.

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