CHINATOWN — A neighborhood group has received $40,000 in grant money from the city to figure out how to make Chinatown more pedestrian friendly, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office announced Thursday.
The Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community is one of five neighborhood groups to receive $175,000 in seed funding as part of the mayor's Healthy Chicago 2.0 program, the mayor's office said in a news release. The group received the maximum grant of $40,000 to use on a transportation study of Chinatown and a plan to make it more walkable, said Debbie Liu, community development coordinator for the Coalition.
"We're really excited," Liu said. "We have a really good opportunity to do something meaningful for this area."
Chinatown is a dense neighborhood with a relatively high senior population, but the neighborhood is not very walkable or friendly to those with disabilities, Liu said. Neighbors not only worry about being able to traverse the neighborhood's streets, but also about what might happen to them while out, she said.
"There's a lot of petty crime. Safety is the No. 1 concern of the community," Liu said. "We're trying to invest in solutions to these problems."
Having more inviting public infrastructure could cause more people to be outside and act as a deterrent to crime, she said. A 2015 "Chinatown Vision Plan" said improvements like added lights to streets and park will increase the safety and usability of the area.
"Not only should Chinatown's streets be easy and comfortable for people of all ages to traverse, ideally they should also be pleasant places for them to linger and socialize," the report reads.
The group plans to conduct an audit of its transportation systems, including public transportation options, car traffic and infrastructure condition, Liu said. Some of the groundwork has been laid out in the 2015 action plan, but now the group work on a strategy to implement some of its ideas.
A report on the group's new plan is expected to be rolled out by Sept. 15, Liu said.
Improving the neighborhood's walkability will also help to fight obesity and therefore make the area healthier, which is the goal of the mayor's program.
Special consideration for the grant funding process was given to proposals that address a community's public health, including make public spaces safer, the mayor's office said.
"By investing in community-based organizations, we are not only improving the health and success of our neighborhoods but also building capacity at the grassroots level for sustainable progress," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Julie Morita said in a statement.