Community assets are those built, natural, cultural and institutional elements that most define a neighborhood. They are anchor institutions, identity markers and community stabilizers. As such, they help guide local capital investment decisions.
Well-located along transit lines and railroads, the West Side was built up early in Chicago’s history, with developers erecting thousands of cottages, two-flats, and large apartment buildings to house workers from nearby factories and downtown businesses.
Some of the West Side’s current assets predate the racial turnover, in particular the thousands of historic structures that remain valuable today. But many were developed as the incoming African-American residents created wholly new communities from scratch. Block clubs were formed, churches established, family and geographic roots tapped to establish new networks. Larger community organizations and leaders emerged.
The West Side remains one of Chicago’s poorest areas with about 40 percent of all household earning less than $28,000 per year. The large population supports substantial retail districts that include more than 1,500 small businesses; all of the major corridors show some areas of strength and recent reinvestment, but all also struggle with vacancies and some blocks with few or no businesses. [Excerpted from Summary of Assets]