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$100 Million Catalyst Fund Yet To Invest In Neighborhoods Year After Launch

By Heather Cherone | October 25, 2017 6:00am | Updated on October 27, 2017 11:34am
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel (fromleft) and city Tresasurer Kurt Summers
Mayor Rahm Emanuel (fromleft) and city Tresasurer Kurt Summers
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

CITY HALL — A year ago, aldermen and Mayor Rahm Emanuel heralded the creation of a $100 million investment fund with taxpayer money, assuring critics that it would breathe new life into the South and West sides of Chicago and help fight crime and blight.

But the fund has yet to invest a single dollar.

The brainchild of city Treasurer Kurt Summers, the fund was touted as a way to encourage investors to look south of Roosevelt Road and west of Ashland Avenue. Summer refers to it as Fund 77, after the city's 77 community areas.

"No one wants to see this happen — and for capital to start flowing into our neighborhoods — more than I do," Summers said as he answered aldermen's questions about his office's $1.6 million 2018 budget — and why the fund has not made it off the drawing board.

Summers said the next step to getting the fund off the ground is expected to be completed later this month when aldermen consider confirming the mayor's appointments to the seven-member board that will administer the funds.

Summers said he could not answer questions about why it took so long for appointments to be made to the board, pointing out that it was the responsibility of the mayor.

Once the board is in place, Summers said his office would start the process of hiring consultants to "solicit investments."

The city's $100 million is expected be matched by $300 million from private firms, with no more than 20 percent of the fund's assets eligible for a single project. The City Council has earmarked $50 million for the fund.

Summers has said he is confident that the success of the fund will counteract the incorrect assessment by Wall Street firms that parts of Chicago are too risky for investment.

The city's contribution to the fund would come from the profits the city earns from its investment portfolio, Summers said.

Only projects in low-income neighborhoods and U.S. Census tracts as defined by the Community Reinvestment Act will be eligible for investment, Summers told the Council.

Several members of the Council's Progressive Caucus, including 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack, voted against the creation of the fund, saying there was not enough oversight built into the ordinance to ensure taxpayers' money would be well spent.