A Stronger Commercial Avenue = A Stronger South Chicago

08-17-15 southchicagoblog

The Great Cities Institute is pleased to announce its upcoming commercial corridor revitalization project on South Commercial Avenue in the South Chicago community. In collaboration with Special Service Area (SSA) #5, GCI will embark on a nine-month community-based planning process with key neighborhood stakeholders including residents, business owners, community organizations, service providers, and elected officials. This project is a part of GCI’s Neighborhoods Initiative, which reflects the Institute’s commitment to improving the quality-of-life in communities in Chicago.

In South Chicago, retail has been on the decline, with very little recovery, since the loss of the steel industry. Beginning as a sharp decline in the mid 1970s, the last steel mill closed its doors in the early 1990s.   The loss of those payrolls meant a loss in retail employment and the access to the goods and services that retail provides. As a result, a once thriving commercial corridor at the heart of South Chicago now contains only a fraction of the businesses it once held. Interspersed through the occasional business, are rampant vacancies and empty lots. Residents active in South Chicago believe in the possibilities for a revived South Commercial Avenue. We are excited and honored to work with them on this Strategic Planning Process for Commercial Revitalization in South Chicago.

As we partner with South Chicago residents and organizations, we will, of course, begin by inviting stakeholders to develop ideas and strategies, utilizing their local knowledge to provide the foundation for the plan. Applying our various technical tools, we will gather the community’s input and guide residents and organizations towards a consensus on actions to take to implement the plan. Through a series of community meetings and design charrettes, we will develop a vision, design, and actions for the corridor. We will couple the wants and needs of stakeholders with data and economic analysis to form a basis for the recruitment of new businesses to fill vacancies and create a vibrant corridor.

The resulting plan will have a direct effect on the Commercial Avenue corridor by creating a focus on the importance of the corridor and by creating a framework for future developments along the corridor. This process takes time, but over several years of focused efforts, the intention is to produce a thriving, vibrant corridor that draws people from all over the region to shop, dine, and stroll in the South Chicago neighborhood. The result will be a stronger economy, more jobs, and access to the goods and services that neighborhood residents need.

About the Author:
Jackson Morsey, GCI Urban Planner: Primarily working within GCI’s Neighborhoods Initiative, Jackson works in collaboration with community-based organizations, university faculty, and staff to provide technical assistance and services for community and economic development projects.