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Crain's Letter: Half Right on Neighborhood Development

25 November 2013 - Crain's Chicago Business

This letter from LISC Chicago Executive Director Susana Vasquez appeared in Crain's Chicago Business on Nov. 25, 2013, in response to the newspaper's Nov. 18 editorial and Nov. 11 special report on vacant land.

Crain's recent editorial is only half right ("Sacrificing a few to save neighborhoods," Nov. 18). It is true that some neighborhoods have so much empty land and so many empty buildings that traditional housing and redevelopment strategies have little chance of filling all the space over the next 30 to 50 years.

But Crain's fails to mention the importance of engaging a community's own residents in the discussion of redevelopment planning. Success depends on a collaborative process that respects all interests.

For example, in Englewood, a 2005 planning process organized by Teamwork Englewood and LISC Chicago brought together more than 600 people and ultimately recommended creation of urban farms (well underway), development of a town center and shopping district on empty land at 63rd and Halsted streets (recently announced, with a Whole Foods as anchor) and a land-use strategy that would encourage various reuses depending on the amount of vacant land in that area (being advanced by the city of Chicago under its recent Green and Healthy Neighborhoods plan).

It never will be easy to reverse the trajectory of depopulated neighborhoods—and the Englewood process hasn't been without controversy. But it always will be far better if local residents and institutions are engaged in the planning and implementation of any strategy, including job-creating projects that result from thoughtful comprehensive development.

Executive director 
LISC Chicago 


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