“Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration has spent the past 10 months preparing to reshape blighted commercial corridors on the city’s South and West sides. Now it’s ready to find out whether real estate developers will join in.
“Kicking off a crucial new phase of the $750 million Invest South/West initiative the mayor’s office announced in October, the city today is issuing a request for proposals for the first three of 10 South and West side neighborhoods the administration has prioritized as potential catalysts for badly needed economic development.
“The city is hunting for developers to take the reins on the first batch of sites—projects in Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Austin (see details at Crain’s Chicago Business) and laying out the menu of tax incentives available to help lower some of the financial hurdles that real estate investors have long cited as one of the main reasons for decades of neighborhood disinvestment. Those roadblocks may be even more onerous now in a COVID-19-induced recession and after episodes of looting and riots this summer wreaked havoc on both small businesses and national retail chains that historically have been hard to retain for those communities.
If the city’s plan works as intended, new developments in the designated neighborhoods would be financed and under construction as soon as 18 months from now, said Chicago Department of Planning & Development Commissioner Maurice Cox. And the bigger victory would be spurring other investors to follow suit.
“‘This is us setting the stage for what equitable development on the South and West sides will look like,’ said Cox, who has helped organize monthly in-person and virtual community meetings since November, gathering input from stakeholders in designed Invest South/West neighborhoods about their most pressing needs. Those discussions formed the basis for the RFPs, which give prospective developers guidelines for what local residents and business owners would like to see built and include renderings of possible designs generated by firms including Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Perkins & Will and SCB.
“The Austin site on the 5200 block of West Chicago Avenue would be anchored by the Laramie State Bank building, a dilapidated structure that would be fixed up and supplemented by new construction next to it, according to the RFP.
“Cox said residents in the area are ‘trying to create a place that has an African American cultural anchor’ that includes food and beverage retail offerings and a public plaza. The idea is that ‘you won’t be able to get home, if you live in Austin, without passing by a vibrant corridor,’ he said. Multifamily housing above ground-floor retail and improved streetscapes are also part of the community’s vision, according to Cox. The site is one of 10 the city identified along Chicago Avenue in Austin that are ripe for redevelopment to help revitalize the corridor.” (Ecker, 8/24/20)
City hunts for developers to revive South, West Side corridors: Sites in Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Austin kick off the crucial first phase of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $750 million Invest South/West initiative. Danny Ecker, Crain’s Chicago Business, 8/24/20
City solicits plans to improve three commercial areas; The communities listed in the request for proposals are among those prioritized in Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West initiative, David Roeder, Chicago Sun-Times, 8/24/20
INVEST South/West RFP Summary Austin – Chicago Avenue ISW Corridor Site Description: The Laramie State Bank (the “Bank”) is a key element in the historic Chicago Avenue commercial corridor that runs through the Austin community.