Chicago is releasing its first citywide plan in more than 50 years.
The draft plan, called We Will Chicago, lays out a 10-year vision for how the city can address systemic inequities by first acknowledging the policies that created them, then creating goals for the city’s future.
These goals, created over two years with community input, look at eight pillars for transformation: arts and culture, civic and community engagement, economic development, environment, climate and energy, housing and neighborhoods, lifelong learning, public health and safety and transportation and infrastructure.
“Think of it as a people-centered, data-driven plan that will empower residents to reflect on our shared past and truly reimagine our city’s future,” said Skyler Larrimore, incoming director of policy with the city of Chicago.
Iyana Simba, city programs director with the Illinois Environmental Council was the co-chair of environment, climate and energy for We Will Chicago. She said the plan recognizes a disinvestment in equitable policy and how that translates to health impacts, like the impact of industry and pollution, especially on Black, Latino and low-income communities.
“We really [honed] in on an environmental impact assessment that can be used during the development projects,” Simba said. “If there is incoming development, what impact is that going to have not only on air and water, but [on communities]?”
Prior to release of the draft plan, the Citywide Equitable Development Roundtable, made up of organizations from across the city, released a statement asking the city commit to equitable development through efforts such as through Tax Increment Financing (TIF) reform and providing a binding community benefits agreement for negotiation, among other things. The Roundtable is now working on a report to assess the released draft.
Melvin Thompson, executive director of the Endeleo Institute, a corporation of three nonprofits under Trinity United Church, says residents he works with in Washington Heights had a “healthy dose of cynicism” at the beginning, but there’s excitement. As the co-chair of transportation and infrastructure for We Will Chicago, Thompson was eager to bring issues that residents faced to the plan, such as a need for equitable transit-oriented development.
In 2019, the 95th Red Line station finished a $280 million renovation. However, Thompson said the residents have suffered from the lack of transit-oriented development connecting the station to the community. He sees an opportunity for the new city plan to step in and address this.
“We can right some decades-long wrongs,” said Thompson.