How can more neighbors say "yes" to equitable transit-oriented development?
As CNT has noted, the Chicago region has fallen behind in adding affordable development around transit. The biggest barrier to eTOD is not always a lack of investment capital or supportive public policy. It can be a lack of community acceptance. Sometimes, neighbors push back over issues like parking, traffic, or building heights. At other times, preconceptions about affordable housing may spark opposition. Over time, affordable housing developers may pass over a neighborhood known for its “Not In My Backyard” opposition. This inhibits new affordable units created in some communities with excellent access to transit and jobs.
Start small but think holistically. That’s how three entrepreneurs are building equitable transit-oriented development in Washington Park. It’s a neighborhood with many assets, including three Green Line stations, proximity to the University of Chicago, multiple fiber optic cables, and a rich cultural history. However, Washington Park has struggled to capitalize on them with systemic disinvestment that has resulted in an unemployment rate of over 30% and a median income of around $22,000. Proposed big investments, such as the bid for the 2016 Olympics and, more recently, the Obama Presidential Library, offered promise for the neighborhood in the recent past, but the results have been disappointing. In contrast, three neighborhood entrepreneurs are working incrementally to create the building blocks for eTOD: Bernard Loyd of Urban Juncture, Ghian Foreman of the Washington Park Development Group, and Theaster Gates of the University of Chicago’s Arts+Public Life initiative.