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
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,
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
MPC looks forward to working with
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
to read North Lawndale ’s Quality of Life Plan.
for a list of
’s current nonprofit