The Great Cities Institute facilitated a planning process for revitalization of the Commercial Avenue corridor in the South Chicago community. In collaboration with the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce and Special Service Area (SSA) #5, GCI embarked on a twelve-month community-based planning process with key neighborhood stakeholders including residents, business owners, community organizations, service providers, and elected officials.
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 honored to have worked with them on this strategic planning process for commercial revitalization in South Chicago.
As we partnered with South Chicago residents and organizations, we began 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 gathered the community’s input and guided residents and organizations towards a consensus on actions to take to implement the plan. Through a series of community meetings and design charrettes, we developed a vision, design, and actions for the corridor. We coupled 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 is having 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.