Data Points: Pullman Pulling Forward - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Data Points: Pullman Pulling Forward

Marc PoKempner

112th block of St. Lawrence looking south towards 113th Street

In January 2017, Metropolitan Planning Council published findings that highlighted signs of progress over the last decade in the historic South Side community of Pullman. Two years later, MPC is pleased to report that investment in Pullman continues to pay off.

In partnership last year with Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI), we analyzed data and talked to community stakeholders to continue to explore how the community is faring, as well as capture the impacts of the organization’s work in Pullman. Through long-term community and government partnerships, CNI has impressively attracted more than $340 million in local investment and created more than 1,580 permanent jobs, among other things. MPC wanted to investigate how these things have translated into tangible change felt by residents.

Is the neighborhood growing? Is it safer? Are more residents employed? More educated? These are a few of the questions we set out to answer, through a stakeholder survey, focus group, and analysis of data from 1990 to 2017 for Pullman and three of its neighboring communities—West Pullman, Roseland and Riverdale.

But before we dive into our findings, a snapshot of Pullman’s history is necessary.

Pullman History: A Primer

The original town of Pullman—built by the Pullman Palace Car Company between 1880 and 1893—was one of the nation’s first planned industrial communities. Beyond its architectural significance, Pullman played an important role in the history of urban design, transportation, labor and race relations. For instance, the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters became the first black union in America to secure collective bargaining rights.

Despite a legacy of resilience since the community’s formation, post-World War II changes in automobile and airplane transport led to a steep decline in the Company's—and neighborhood’s—fortunes. The Pullman Palace Car Company folded in 1968 and the community suffered deep disinvestment, followed by depopulation.

Efforts towards reinvestment have been underway since the early 1970s and have continued despite tough economic times brought on by deindustrialization and the loss of manufacturing jobs.

As recent as the 20-year period from 1990 to 2010—which immediately preceded the formation of CNI—Pullman lost a significant portion of its population, witnessed declines in its household income and homeownership levels, and experienced increased unemployment and poverty. But our exploration shows that in more recent years, a reversal is happening.

Focusing on the period after 2010, here are our most notable findings:

Investment in Pullman is paying off

  1. In the period from 2006 to 2015, Pullman was the only community area among its neighboring peers to experience sustained job growth and labor force participation

During this ten year period, Pullman experienced a nearly 15 percent increase in job growth, while neighboring peers all experienced declines. In the years since CNI began its work in the community, this growth has intensified: From 2010 to 2015, the number of jobs located in Pullman grew by over 40 percent.

We also observed a consistent yearly growth from 2012-2015 in the percentage of jobs held by residents of the 60628 ZIP code, likely due in large part to the organization’s work to establish retail and industrial businesses in Pullman Park with local hiring provisions. During this same time, the percent of Pullman residents 16 years and older that were either working or actively looking for work closely approached the citywide average of 66.4 percent.

  1. From 2012-2017, drops in Pullman’s violent crime and homicide rate far exceeded declines its neighbors

In addition to a decline of over 20 percent in violent crime, Pullman went from having had 4 homicides in 2012, to just one in 2017. It should be noted that the largest declines in crime occurred in the same census tract (Tract 5002) where CNI has done most of its work. Within this tract, no homicides have occurred since 2014, when much of Pullman Park was completed.

  1. In 2017, Pullman had the 9th highest rate of construction per capita out of all community areas in the city

This rate—of around $2,600 per capita—was the result of more than $17 million in building permits filed for new construction. Not only was this rate the highest among majority-black community areas in the city in 2017, it was part of a consistent trend: The average annual rate of new construction from 2010 to 2017 (about $969 per capita) was nearly 20 times higher than it was for the period immediately before CNI’s establishment in the community (see graph below).

Metropolitan Planning Council

Average annual amount of new construction per capita for select community areas, 2005-2009 and 2010-2017. Underlying data from City of Chicago Data Portal.


  1. In recent years, Pullman is the only community area among its neighboring peers to have experienced a decline in its poverty rate

Based on comparison of the 2007-2011 and 2012-2016 5-year estimates from the American Community Survey, we noted that Pullman experienced a drop in poverty of .2 percentage points, while neighbors experienced increases in poverty between 2.70 and 5.96 percentage points.


  1. Homes in the community are affordable, and recent appreciation rates are among the highest in the city

From 2016 to 2017, Pullman recorded the second largest level of home appreciation (136.2 percent) of all community areas in the city. This dramatic increase in the annual median value of its single-family detached homes is perhaps the clearest signal of the community’s reversal of fortunes. As compiled by Crain’s Chicago Business, Pullman’s current home values sit at around $112,000—a level that far exceeds neighboring communities, but still sits well below the citywide mark of $285,000.

Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives as a community partner in Pullman’s story

“The impact of CNI...they provided what we could not provide for ourselves. We took it as far as we could but it took a group with sustained commitment and resources.” —Pullman Homeowner and Focus Group Participant

As gleaned through data analysis and captured in community conversation, it is evident that Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives has played an important role in Pullman’s story. But it’s clear that the organization’s success has been in large part due to its commitment to put community first: to involve residents in the very planning and processes that directly impact their quality of life.

The organization was formed in 2010 to coordinate resources, economic development and neighborhood revitalization efforts in Chicago communities, and among its many accomplishments in Pullman, CNI has been responsible for developing the new 140,000 square foot Pullman Community Center, the largest indoor sports facility of its kind in the region. In addition, they’ve negotiated a community benefits agreement with Walmart; preserved historic row houses north of 111th Street; and played roles in the development of the 150,000 square foot Method factory and 150,000 square foot Whole Foods Distribution Center on the former Ryerson Steel site, which brought 300 new permanent jobs to the community. Looking ahead to 2019-2020, CNI is collaborating with partners to deliver a new artist live-work housing facility in the historic district, and the Visitor’s Center for Pullman National Monument.

As expressed by one survey participant when asked what came to mind when they thought of CNI: “Smart, compassionate, truly community-minded in providing what communities such as Pullman lack—access to resources to build economic infrastructure.” Through their intentionality in cultivating authentic relationships, CNI has come to be viewed in Pullman as a community partner rather than just a ‘doer’.

When asked about what’s to come for the area, one focus group participant said: “Now, because of the revitalization that’s going on by CNI, people are taking an interest in the housing and, of course, along with revitalization and jobs created, people are coming back and taking an interest.” From our vantage point, Pullman can only continue to thrive with organizations like CNI playing a role as a strong collaborator.


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