CHINATOWN — The future of the century-old Chinatown neighborhoods is in the hands of its residents, businesses and community leaders.
That much is known.
But what's the smartest way forward?
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, together with local leaders, will unveil some answers at a community meeting scheduled for 5:30-7:30 p.m. Monday at the Pui Tak Center, 2216 S. Wentworth Ave.
The meeting is the latest update on the Chinatown Vision Plan, the neighborhood's first comprehensive, citizen-driven plan to address issues like transportation, housing and economic development.
Casey Cora says we won't know specifics before the meeting:
The project launched in 2013 on two fronts: The planning agency collected and analyzed mountains of population and data, while volunteers canvassed homes, polled high school students, met with factory workers, visited grocery store owners, chatted with bankers and took feedback from business owners — all in an effort to get a better sense of the community's priorities.
"We've gotten a really good picture of how everybody felt at the time," said C.W. Chan, chairman of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community and one of the project's main organizers.
Residents highlighted safety, cleanliness, transportation and education as their main concerns, along with parks and public spaces, economic development and its residential communities, defined as "making Chinatown a better place to live for people at different stages of their lives," said Stephen Ostrander, a senior planner with the planning agency.
Now it's all about looking forward.
At Monday's meeting, the project's steering committee, made up of Chan, Ald. Danny Solis (25th) and a host of other community leaders, will outline some of their strategies and key recommendations for the community in improving life in Chinatown.
A draft of the plan will be available for those attendance and posted online on the planning agency's website.
"We're looking at some realistic yet bold ideas on how we can move the community forward," Chan said.
Executing those plan will require commitment everyday Chinatown residents, elected officials, city government departments and business leaders to once again come together, organizers said.
Eventually, it will take leadership from a younger generation to supplant the older residents who've done much of the groundwork in the community.
"Chinatown has had these very key people who have been leaders who've paved the way for Chinatown's successes. But going forward ... we basically feels there needs to be more structure, a more systematic way of bringing young people into planning for the future," Ostrander said.
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