The Impact of Infrastructure on Communities: Three Rail-to-Trail Projects

When new infrastructure is created in communities, what are the impacts on existing residents? This topic explores the creation of three rail-to-trail projects in Chicago from initial dreaming to post-implementation community changes, and what is being done to remedy communities’ concerns.

Juan Carlos Linares is the Executive Director of LUCHA (Latin United Community Housing Association) Since 1982, LUCHA has served thousands of moderate and low-income families with Affordable Housing Development, Emergency and Senior Home Repairs, Home Buyer Counseling, Foreclosure Prevention and Legal Services. LUCHA owns and operates 153 units of affordable housing in the West Town, Humboldt Park and Logan Square Communities, and counsels hundreds of families on Home Buying in the Chicagoland area. Through its Freddie Mac Borrower Help Center, LUCHA counsels over 7,000 families annually. LUCHA partners with residents, community organizers, banks and government agencies to maintain its $22 million in real estate assets and to advocate for greater affordable housing options in the region.

Antonio Lopez is a Senior Advisor for LVEJO (Little Village Environmental Justice Organization), which initiated planning for the El Paseo trail as a way to bring much needed green space to the Little Village community. He received his doctorate in Borderlands History at the University of Texas at El Paso. Dr. López has written extensively on anti-poverty and anti-racist social movements in Chicago. He has also contributed to human rights, environmental justice, and economic justice struggles in Chicago and on the U.S./Mexico border. Prior to joining LVEJO, Lopez coordinated a mentorship program for youth incarcerated at Illinois Youth Center, St. Charles, and contributed to the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce (CGCT).

Anton Seals is the Executive Director of Grow Greater Englewood, a coalition of residents, organizations and businesses who collaborate to cultivate a healthy and resilient food system. Established in 2013, the organization seeks to implement many of the goals from Englewood Quality of Life Plan to improve the health and wellbeing of residents and get the community more involved in the planning of their neighborhood. Grow Greater Englewood has become one of the driving forces behind the Englewood Line trail and organizing residents to work with CDOT and DPD on the plans.

Jamie Simone is the Bureau Chief of Program, Project & Safety Outreach for the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). Formerly, she was Program Director for the Chicago office of the Trust for Public Lands where she was instrumental in coordinating the community engagement process and implementation of The 606 parks and Bloomingdale Trail. She graduated from the MUPP program in 2004, and credits her undergraduate degree in social work with giving her the skills necessary to build trust and listen to communities, and problem solve issues.

Geoff Smith is the Executive Director of the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University. To this role, he brings years of experience producing research on the dynamics of neighborhood housing markets and connecting that research to a broad range of housing practitioners. Under Geoff’s leadership, IHS has positioned itself as a critical resource for timely research, policy analysis and data that inform the local and national policy debates around neighborhood stability and the preservation and production of affordable rental housing. In 2016, IHS produced the report “Measuring the Impact of The 606: Understanding How a Large Public Investment Impacted the Surrounding Housing Market”.