West Side District Plans Synthesis

Chicago has many citywide and local place-based plans with stated goals for the built environment. Some are municipal; others are nonprofit driven. They prioritize public and private capital investments, provide important context for those investments and help determine how a community should grow and where development should occur.

Comprehensive housing strategies, improved community safety, youth development, educational opportunities for residents of all ages and economic development are common themes of the plans of the West Side. Beginning with North Lawndale: Faith Rewarded (2005), accomplishments range from the completion of the Better Boys Foundation Kellman Center in 2008 to development of new affordable apartments on the site where Martin Luther King Jr. once lived, as well as expanded access to mental health and substance abuse counseling. The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest Youth Farm program, begun in 2005, expanded in 2012 to an additional site and also offers a produce stand in the community during the growing season. Much remains to be done, however, including creating the Cornerstone Chicago Center for Arts and Technology, developing commercial and recreational uses at the “Five Corners” intersection and reconfiguring and beautifying Ogden Avenue. [Excerpted from Summary of Westside District Plans]

Planning Context: The plans for Stony Island look to transportation investments, education improvements, citizen engagement, business support and a proposed multi-billion dollar development on the massive former South Works steel mill site to address disinvestment that has occurred since the steel mill closed in 1992.  [Excerpted from Summary of Stony Island District Plans]

Planning Context: Historic disinvestment meets new opportunities in the Stockyards plans. The 2006 Archer Avenue Technical Assistance Panel (TAP): Remaking an Historic Corridor plan addresses problems caused by constructing the Stevenson Expressway, which isolated the Archer Avenue corridor and limited its pedestrian appeal.  The plan proposes transportation, retail and marketing, pedestrian safety and land use regulation strategies to recreate the corridor’s identity. As a result of the TAP, Jacolik Park (formerly known as Eleanor Park) and Quarry Park will soon be joined by a new $5.7M, 19,000 square foot boathouse and boat launch structure with floating dock, which will offer more access to the Chicago River and greater recreational opportunities. To support this investment, improved access to those parks along with improvements to areas surrounding the Ashland and Halsted El stations remain needed. Recommendations of the TAP that remain to be implemented include additional commercial and service businesses, placemaking identifiers such as murals or banners, and enhanced station signage. While some parking has been created under the Expressway, the Bubbly Creek “kiss and ride” parking project is yet to be completed and bumpouts at Archer Avenue and Loomis Street need to be installed. [Excerpted from Summary of Stockyards District Plans]

Planning Context: The five plans in the South Side area focus on economic development, employment, education, safety and urban agriculture opportunities. The first plan from 2005, Englewood: Making a Difference, is a quality of life plan that lays out a more prosperous future for Englewood’s residents through local economic development, housing choices, and health.  There have been numerous accomplishments since the release of this plan, such as creating the Greater Englewood CDC, Englewood Codes, the City’s Micro Market Recovery Program, the Community Development Sustainability Fund, the Re-entry Resource Center and the Englewood Portal, an online information network. Whole Foods has announced the opening of a new store in 2016 and planning is underway to develop a Facilities Capital Campaign to improve facilities serving youth, starting with the adaptive reuse of the Englewood Firehouse. Key projects yet to move forward include developing a Housing Resource Center to provide assistance to homeowners and renters and a “Neighbor to Neighbor” program to connect new residents to area resources, information and local businesses. [Excerpted from Summary of Southside District Plans]

Planning Context: Three of the four plans in the Pilsen Little Village area were developed through LISC’s New Communities Program. The plans generally look to address lack of open space, crime and safety issues, affordable housing, education, health and immigration services in addition to strengthening the local business economy. The first plan, Little Village: Capital of the Midwest (2005), has resulted in many accomplishments, including improvements to Piotrowski Park and Manuel Perez, Jr. Plaza, an enhanced Little Village community gateway on 26th Street, the Mercy Housing development at 26th Street and Kostner Avenue and the St. Anthony Focal Point campus development. The Immigrant Resource Center is in the process of being built by Enlace, a Little Village community development corporation. Key projects remaining include increasing community-based activities at the Manuel Perez, Jr. Plaza, creating a community-wide campaign to reduce teen pregnancy, exploring transit-oriented development opportunities around new Blue Line Chicago Transit Authority stations, establishing a dedicated industrial road south of 31st Street, establishing a Planned Manufacturing District and improving physical connections between Piotrowski Park and the Little Village High School campus. [Excerpted from Summary of Pilsen Little Village District Plans]

Planning Context: Transportation, economic development and neighborhood vitality are keywords from the three plans in the Northwest Side. The 2008 Jefferson Park Milwaukee/Lawrence Corridor Study focuses on enhancing the area’s accessibility and livability, and includes plans for reinvigorating “downtown” Jefferson Park through enhanced transit, additional parking, a redeveloped Transit Center and Post Office Annex, increased pedestrian safety, and building on the area’s strong Polish history and identity. Successfully implemented projects include the Copernicus Center’s expanded programming that now attracts more visitors, and three new venues that have recently opened in the area: Gift Theater, the National Veterans Art Museum and the Ed Paschke Art Center. A streetscape project has been completed on Milwaukee, and new light poles, trees and sidewalks were installed. Many recommendations remain to be implemented. The area enjoys easy access via the Blue Line and the Expressway to downtown Chicago, O’Hare and the northwestern suburbs; focusing efforts on the large-scale developments, as well as marketing and promotion efforts will move the community that much closer to the plan’s goal of improving the function and character of the corridor through preservation, renovation and redevelopment. [Excerpted from Summary of Northwest Side District Plans]

The Northwest Side as a whole is one of Chicago’s strongest and most stable districts, with consistently strong demand for housing, a good choice of schools, and ample access to employment and shopping.  Another factor in the district’s stability is its employment base, which is fueled by the economic engines of O’Hare Airport, northwest suburban job centers, and downtown Chicago. More than 45,000 local jobs are in wholesale and retail trade, transportation and warehousing.

Manufacturing remains a major employer despite the closure of many factories. The northwest neighborhoods supported about 7,500 manufacturing jobs in 2011, while nearby suburbs including Elk Grove Village, Franklin Park and Niles continue to have strong manufacturing and distribution sectors. Educational services and healthcare provide another 20,000 jobs.

Transit is key. In addition to the nearby expressways, more than 40,000 people each weekday board CTA Blue Line trains at the district’s eight stations (including Rosemont and O’Hare), and nearly 5,000 more board Metra trains along the three commuter lines serving the district. The CTA offers 2,500 park-and ride spaces at Rosemont, Cumberland and Harlem; smaller numbers of spaces are available at the Metra stations, most of which have large proportions of walking, biking, and drop-off commuters.

In addition, residential streets are solidly built up, with very few vacant lots or new development opportunities. The district represents the northern arc of Chicago’s famed “bungalow belt,” with mile after mile of the attractive, affordable and highly functional housing style. On corner lots and along major arteries, denser apartment blocks were built. [Excerpted from Summary of Assets]

Between Chicago’s expanding central core and the booming northwest suburbs around O’Hare International Airport are the bedroom neighborhoods of the Northwest Side, which continue to provide what home-buyers want: stable and safe neighborhoods, shopping, quick access to jobs and diverse housing options.

It’s not just housing. At the CTA’s Cumberland Blue Line stop, in the O’Hare community area, a dozen high-rises contain corporate headquarters, hotels and apartments, with low-rise residential neighborhoods nearby. Industrial buildings stretch along Northwest Highway and in the Knox Industrial Corridor. Three miles of forest preserves provide a green border along the city’s western edge and to the east along the North Branch of the Chicago River.

With diverse job markets in all directions and multiple transportation options, including CTA, Metra, and the Kennedy (I-90) and Edens (I-94) Expressways, the neighborhoods are home to 327,000 people. Unlike many areas of the city that have declining populations, the Northwest Side is stable. Housing values are high in some areas—with teardowns making way for new mansions—but housing remains affordable in most areas south of Lawrence Avenue, where a fast-growing Latino population has joined previous generations of Poles and other white ethnic groups. [Excerpted from Summary of Assets]

Planning Context: This multi-cultural community where residents are of Mexican, African, Middle Eastern and European descent is arguably the most culturally diverse group of neighborhoods on the South Side. The area is adjacent to Midway Airport and includes the Southwest Industrial Corridor, home to Tootsie Roll, Nabisco and other factories providing more than 6,000 jobs, and Marquette Park, the largest of Chicago’s great neighborhood parks created in the early 20th century. Once known as the Lithuanian Gold Coast, this predominantly Lithuanian, German, Irish and Polish area is today a multi-racial neighborhood. [Excerpted from Summary of Midway District Plans]