Mayor Outlines $3 Billion Plan to Improve Neighborhoods

By Alex Parker on March 17, 2013 1:02pm 

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced a $3 billion plan to transform seven neighborhoods.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced a $3 billion plan to transform seven neighborhoods.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CHICAGO — Entertainment. Education. Recreation.

These are the cornerstones of a $2.9 billion plan to develop seven neighborhoods outlined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel Sunday. Relying heavily on $2.6 billion in private funding, the mayor's vision for these "opportunity areas" combines a mix of new plans and old ideas to boost development and growth across the city.

“Each of these areas is unique and full of potential and the City will play an important role in supporting their growth. Economic development and a neighborhood’s success are reliant upon the support and strategic vision these ‘Opportunity Area’ plans provide,” the mayor said in a statement.

In Bronzeville, the mayor hopes to connect the South Loop to Hyde Park by creating a long-term redevelopment at the site of Michael Reese Hospital; adding lodging to McCormick Place; developing Motor Row as a "pedestrian-oriented entertainment district;" adding housing and commercial space to 47th Street and continuing the housing recovery of Grand Boulevard; and adding new neighborhood markets from retailers like Mariano's and Walmart.

The Eisenhower Corridor near the Medical District is envisioned as a nexus of education and entertainment, improving Damen Avenue and Madison Street; integrating Crane High School and Malcolm X College into the nearby health-related industries, and completing Chicago Housing Authority programs underway.

Englewood would become a center for urban agriculture, further utilizing Kennedy-King College as a neighborhood anchor; housing recovery programs would continue as areas around 63rd and Halsted Streets, Garfield Boulevard and Norfolk Southern yard would receive attention. In New York last week, the mayor said he wants Kennedy-King to be an expert in farm-to-table urban agriculture, using 24 acres of land near the college.

The projects in Little Village would enhance community services and residents' quality of life by redeveloping the former Celotex industrial site as a new park, and turning the former Washburne trade school site into a campus for St. Anthony Hospital; McCormick Elementary School's early learning facilities would be renovated, and the 26th Street Gateway would be rebuilt, with street resurfacing and traffic signals.

Pullman's claim as a historic neighborhood would be bolstered by the pursuit of a National Historical Park designation for the Pullman National Register District; Pullman Park's redevelopment would be completed, and the city would continue to market the area as a cultural attraction.

On the city's North Side, initiatives would target Rogers Park, revolving around Loyola University's efforts to establish itself as a residential school, and creating an entertainment district around Uptown's existing establishments.

The Rogers Park plan calls for streetscape projects on Devon and Broadway avenues; improvements to Red Line "L" stations; retail and commercial investment on Devon, Broadway and Sheridan Road, and creating a pedestrian- and bike-friendly environment.

In Uptown, home to venerable establishments like the Riviera Theater, the Green Mill and more, pedestrian-friendly streetscapes would be complimented by improved nightlife; the Wilson "L" stop would be improved to be a "community anchor" and Argyle Street would be enhanced to be a center for Asian culture and cuisine.

A number of projects described are already ongoing; urban agriculture efforts in Englewood were introduced last year, for instance, and millions in tax increment financing for Far North Side Red Line stations have been announced.

No timetable was given for the improvements.

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