July 2003 Media Tips - Metropolitan Planning Council

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July 2003 Media Tips

Technical Assistance in Park Forest, Roundtable on Technology and Economic Development, MPC Zoning Workshops and Employer-Assisted Housing

The Campaign for Sensible Growth and ULI-Chicago to assist Park Forest with the revitalization of its downtown

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) Chicago and Campaign for Sensible Growth are partners in technical assistance panels that help local communities resolve development dilemmas.  On July 30 and 31, 2003, a ULI Chicago/Campaign panel will bring together real estate, planning and development experts to provide unbiased, pragmatic advice on Park Forest’s efforts to transform a failed regional mall into a vibrant downtown. “Through this partnership, local governments gain access to sophisticated advice and experience,” says Campaign Manager Ellen Shubart.  “Our experts connect housing, transportation and community livability solutions”

Since 2001, ULI Chicago and the Campaign have conducted technical assistance panels in Highland Park, Hanover Park, Humboldt Park, Chicago, Highwood and Richmond.

Contact:  Ellen Shubart
Campaign for Sensible Growth Manager


MPC roundtable to address economic development challenges facing state and region

Chicago may have more information technology workers than any other region in the nation, but what is being done to attract and retain small and mid-size businesses that rely on technology and innovation?  What are the State of Illinois and City of Chicago doing to invest in technology? What has MPC learned about Chicago’s unmet demand for broadband infrastructure?

On Friday, July 25, MPC will host, “Enterprise and Innovation: Helping Small Businesses Compete in the Global Market.” The roundtable discussion will feature Kristi LaFleur, chief of staff for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and Paul O’Connor, executive director of World Business Chicago.  They will describe what the Chicago region needs to succeed in the global marketplace and the role technology will play in that effort. Craig Watson, president and CEO of Opti-Pay Technologies LLC, MPC Board member and co-chair of MPC’s Technology Working Group, will moderate the discussion.

MPC roundtables are exceptional opportunities to explore critical issues facing the region and state.  They are lunchtime events that require reservations.  Cost is $12 for members and $25 for non-members including lunch. Reservations are required. (There is no cost for working media.) To register, click here

Contact:  Scott Goldstein
Vice President of Policy and Planning


MPC holds zoning workshop in Spanish for West Town residents; residents form teams to map the ward

The Mayor’s Zoning Reform Commission and Chicago City Council are nearing completion of their rewrite of Chicago’s zoning ordinance that will define the shape of Chicago’s future development. MPC remains encouraged by the initial progress, and is intensifying its outreach to ensure broad public input in the next phase of remapping the city. Earlier this month, MPC held a mapping workshop in the West Town neighborhood.  The workshop was conducted entirely in Spanish and was designed to help community groups work with their alderman to complete the mapping process. Teams comprised of residents and members of West Town Leadership United were formed to document the local assets and challenges that may be addressed through the zoning ordinance.

The data collected by the teams will be analyzed by MPC.  Recommendations based on the data will be presented to the community later this summer.  “The mapping process is much more meaningful with this kind of investment from the community,” says Peter Skosey, MPC vice president of external relations. “It is the people who live in a neighborhood who best know what’s working and what’s not.  Our role is to help them negotiate the citywide mapping process so that their voices are heard by the City.”

Contact:  Peter Skosey
Vice President of External Relations


Employer-assisted housing programs gain momentum with workers and employers

Nearly 20 regional employers are implementing employer-assisted housing programs.  They are proving equally popular with workers.  The most recent example comes from Chicago’s South Side, where the University of Chicago and its hospitals rolled out a new employer-assisted housing program in May.  Four employees have already become homeowners.

Through MPC’s model, prospective homeowners receive forgiveable loans from their employers to use toward down payment and closing costs. Eligible employees may also access up to $5,000 of state matching funds. Their employers may receive a $.50 tax credit for every dollar invested.  All participating employees benefit from credit counseling and homeownership education provided by the eight nonprofit partners that comprise the Regional Employer-Assisted Collaboration for Housing (REACH). Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago provides those services to University of Chicago participants.

The number of new homeowners so far this year equals last year’s total.  Other successful programs include: Northwest Community Hospital, which has helped six employees; Advocate Bethany Hospital which has assisted one with another expected next month; the Village of Riverdale, which has placed one with another expected in the next month or so; System Sensor, which has helped seven; and Bank One, which has helped three.

“EAH is proving to be a powerful tool for employers needing to stabilize their workforce, and for elected officials looking for new housing and economic development strategies,” says Robin Snyderman, MPC housing director. “By helping workers with the down payment on a new home, employers are demonstrating a significant investment and confidence in them.”

Contact: Samantha DeKoven
Housing Associate

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