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Chinatown Vision Plan Offers Road Map for Development, Parks, Jobs and More

By Casey Cora | December 9, 2014 5:36am
 C.W. Chan, chairman of the Coalition For a Better Chinese-American Community, and Stephen Ostrander, a planner with Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, discuss the Chinatown Vision Plan. 
C.W. Chan, chairman of the Coalition For a Better Chinese-American Community, and Stephen Ostrander, a planner with Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, discuss the Chinatown Vision Plan. 
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

CHINATOWN — The beginning of Chinatown's next century is off to an important start, with the city committing millions of dollars to construct a showcase library, build new park facilities and even straighten out a confusing intersection

The civic leaders who helped make it all possible are hoping to keep that momentum going by putting together a roadmap for the future. 

Called the Chinatown Vision Plan, the document that was unveiled Monday at the Pui Tak Community Center outlines a number of key areas for the community's growth. 

Virtually all areas of civic life are addressed in it, everything from education and elderly care to parking and parks. 

"We're not going to solve all of the community's problems at the same time" but the plan, available online, would provide a structure to get elected officials on the same page, said C.W. Chan, chairman of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community and one of the project's main organizers.

The project was launched last year by the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Agency, which analyzed reams of population and housing data in Chinatown.

Armed with the results of an unprecedented community survey and participation from a steering committee, the group has made some recommendations about Chinatown's future. 

Among the highlights:

• Chinatown residents indicated they are unhappy with the quality of public education at the high school level, so residents should examine its options for bringing new programs — or even a new high school — to the community. 

• The median age in Chinatown is higher than most other Chicago communities, yet there remains an influx of younger immigrants. The community should aim to provide new housing options and infrastructure for all ages in an effort to be more "age-friendly." 

• Connecting "Old Chinatown," defined as Wentworth Avenue and areas south of Cermak Road, and "New Chinatown," defined roughly as the areas north of Archer Avenue, remains a major community concern, particularly when it comes to sustaining business in the older part of the neighborhood. 

• There are pockets of land in and around Chinatown that could be developed, notably in the areas just east of Wentworth Avenue and the 60 acres of riverside vacant land north of the neighborhood. 

• In addition to straightening out Wentworth Avenue and connect the neighborhood to the Loop with the Wells-Wentworth connector, the city's urban planners should take a look at untangling the nearby Cermak Road, Archer Avenue and Princeton Avenue intersection.

The entire document can be downloaded at CMAP's website.

It's only draft form, and residents are invited to offer more feedback before its formally adopted early next year. 

While some of the recommendations outlined in the plan are years away from fruition — perhaps even decades — Stephen Ostrander, a planner with CMAP, said having a "vision plan" gives communities a big leg up when it's time to finance public projects.

"By having this in place, it will help the community when it does need future funding," he said.

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