As part of its ongoing work in South Chicago and the Calumet Region, The Great Cities Institute (GCI) initiated Calumet Connect as a mechanism for various stakeholders in the region to actively coalesce in shaping its future.
Calumet Connect is a new community-based coalition that is working towards a vision that represents Southeast Side residents, businesses, community organizations, and other stakeholders for communities near the Calumet River from Lake Michigan to 106th Street.
An initial project of Calumet Connect, is a community-led capacity building and planning project that is capturing the vision of Southeast Side residents, businesses, community organizations, and other stakeholders for collaboration between South Chicago, Vet’s Park, South Deering, East Side, and the Calumet River. Engagement and planning are focused on building bridges among residents, commerce, recreation, environmental stewardship, and developing new river access. This process also seeks to build capacity among residents for engaging in anticipated City efforts to reconfigure the planned manufacturing district along the Calumet River.
The area of the Calumet River from the mouth at Lake Michigan to 106th Street divides the communities on either side, and industrial occupants along the river have historically polluted and prevented public access to the river. The Southeast side in general continues to experience economic disenfranchisement. By creating a unified vision for improvements, the plan will promote river access for residents, promote commercial development, and attract green industries to operate in conjunction with habitat restoration and recreation enhancements, and build capacity for community engagement in future City planning efforts.
Long term, Calumet Connect will help revitalize and make use of the Calumet River as a catalyst for a sustainable Southeast Side – promoting recreation, green industry, and commercial development. In the 21st century, the Calumet River should continue to serve its historic economic role, while also bringing opportunities for connecting communities to nature, developing the role of water culturally, and offering opportunities for improved public health. The process will build capacity for community engagement in upcoming PMD planning.
In the short term, Calumet Connect will integrate and unify efforts of residents, businesses, and community organizations, linking their independent strengths to create a plan to achieve common goals for the Calumet River and nearby neighborhoods. The process will bring understanding that environmental restoration, economic development, and recreational opportunities are not mutually exclusive, but can and must be integrated to achieve greater outcomes.
Calumet Connect is part of GCI’s Great Cities, Great Rivers Initiative to promote innovation districts and community planning for economic and community development in the regions of the Calumet River and the South Branch of the Chicago River. By building partnerships and providing technical assistance, the Great Cities Institute works alongside stakeholders in the region to produce community plans and provide technical assistance and analysis.