Developers wanted: Chicago looks to transform struggling commercial districts

City seeks requests for proposals for 3 neighborhoods as part of its Invest South/West plan

Chicago /
Aug.August 27, 2020 04:00 PM
Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Getty, iStock)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Getty, iStock)

Developers and investors across the U.S. have been searching for opportunities amid an upended real estate market. Chicago, which wants to transform struggling commercial districts on the South and West sides, may offer that chance.

This week, the city put out requests for proposals for sites in Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Austin, according to Crain’s. Those areas will be the first batch of 10 neighborhoods included in the city’s $750 million Invest South/West plan that Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced last fall.

The city will include incentives to lure investors and developers to the underserved and largely ignored commercial districts, Crain’s reported. In addition to its economic troubles, Englewood earlier this month became a flashpoint when a Chicago Police officer shot a Black man following a confrontation. Hours later, crowds of people descended on downtown Chicago, where there was widespread looting of stores and vandalism.

In Invest South/West, the city wants to speed the process for development, hoping to get projects financed and work underway in 18 months, according to the report. The federal government’s Opportunity Zone program was supposed to do something similar, by providing tax breaks for developers in underserved communities. A number of designated zones are in Chicago, though a recent study showed the program has done little to stimulate development or economic growth in poor neighborhoods throughout the U.S.

Chicago’s plan will use money from a number of city funding streams, including tax-increment financing districts and the Small Business Improvement Fund, Crain’s reported.

While the city has steered some funding to existing small businesses to help them recover from pandemic-related closures, it has been scattershot. The city has so far provided just a fraction of the $100 million in low-interest loans to small businesses slammed by Covid-19 that it announced in March.

The deadline for responses to the first three RFPs for Invest South/West is Nov. 24. [Crain’s] — Alexi Friedman 


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