Tuesday, September 21 2021


What year, eh? At first, the public discourse was about impeachment, and who even remembers it now?

A persistent and invisible threat to life and livelihoods will tend to make you forget old worries and rearrange your priorities. In 2020, the pandemic has changed lives so profoundly that for many Chicagoans, their relationships with each other and with the city’s institutions have changed. For many, work has been separated from a traditional place to do it, surrounded by coworkers or standard commuting patterns.

Much has been written about whether the glue that holds cities together will give way because of the pandemic. Fortunately, trends have a way of smoothing out over time. For every tech worker who sets off for Idaho or rustic Michigan, someone else will play with the option but stay put, whether it’s because a small town music scene isn’t. not good or that there is a real health care deficit just about anywhere beyond the metro areas.

For Chicago, 2021 is shaping up to be a year to get back on track – a real positive, all things considered. It brings back confidence and the capital will follow for sure. The city needs investments in its neighborhoods. Perhaps the lessons of this year’s protests against social injustice will be recent enough to ensure that investments are more equitable.

Construction plans underway in various communities offer signs of urban renewal – not to mention “revival” – with notable involvement of nonprofits. Here are some somewhat original proposals:

• At 2500 S. Wabash Ave., the developer who built the Wit Hotel at 201 N. State St. touts a $ 30 million esports arena called Surge. Scott Greenberg, President of Lincolnshire-based ECD, promises an IMAX-like virtual reality experience for up to 1,200 players and those who watch them. The site is just across I-55 from McCormick Place. Greenberg is also planning a parking lot and retail site at 2601 S. Wabash to service the facility. Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) and neighborhood groups are supporting the plan, so city approval is expected to come soon. Greenberg is aiming for completion by mid-2022. You might as well start before these companies appear in the old department stores in the suburbs.

• Last week I reported that the Chicago Cubs were eyeing the former Silver Shovel site, nearly 21 acres in Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue, for a baseball-focused youth academy. The Cubs plan will be evaluated against other proposals for the site, as the city has generated interest from developers. But the Cubs could be a welcome lift for the Lawndale families. The site is linked to a 1990s illegal landfill scandal that spoke volumes about how poor neighborhoods are treated.

• On a similar theme, there is a proposal for a North Austin Community Center at 1830 N. LeClaire Ave., a By the Hand Club for Kids and Grace and Peace Fellowship business. Nonprofit developer Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives is managing the project using tax credits for new markets. Its chairman, David Doig, said the $ 30 million facility could be ready by the summer of 2022. It will include indoor turf fields, basketball and volleyball courts, and a space for extracurricular programs.

The Lawndale and North Austin projects are said to be victories for Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South / West program, for which other plans are underway. City officials have received proposals to improve three commercial bands in Austin, Englewood and Auburn Gresham. Interest in Austin – the 5200 block of West Chicago Avenue – and the Englewood link at 63rd and the Halsted streets, seemed the strongest. Reviews will determine which proposals are real.

The mayor’s signing program was a redesign of some things that would have happened anyway, but it deserves credit for channeling developers to overlooked sites and appealing to their competitive nature. Sometimes rebranding is good psychology.

Finally, for those who follow the big business, know that Sterling Bay plans to inaugurate in early 2021 the first building of its Lincoln Yards site, a complex of laboratories for medical researchers. Sterling Bay is leading the megaprojects race.

Behind it is Related Midwest and its South Loop site known as The 78, where the state has set aside funds for a $ 250 million technology research center at the University of Illinois. Watch it, though. It is a project that can easily be postponed in a budgetary crisis.

Need something else to look forward to? CNI’s Doig, a spark behind Pullman’s revival, said he envisions Labor Day 2021 and the dedication of the Pullman National Monument. He would like then-President Joe Biden to be there with former President Barack Obama, who created the Historic District, provided it is safe for all to assemble. It would celebrate the place of the neighborhood in the struggle for better wages and working conditions.

After the year we have lived, wouldn’t it be a celebration?

The Pullman National Monument clock tower during a Labor Day first scoop for its renovation on September 7, 2020.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times



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