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Nonprofit collaboration aims to transform Little Village brownfields into sustainable business opportunities

03.17.16 | Press

A two-year project culminates in a strategy to leverage the neighborhood’s entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to environmental justice

CHICAGO, IL — Chicago-based nonprofit organizations Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and Delta Institute announce a new comprehensive strategy to guide the redevelopment of vacant and underutilized properties in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, a historic industrial corridor.

The Little Village Vacant Property and Brownfield Redevelopment Strategy is a product of a two-year research and community engagement project by the organizations to promote economic revitalization and environmental justice in this predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood that has seen decades of industrial disinvestment. As part of this project, LVEJO and Delta solicited input from Little Village community residents to not only prioritize the properties the community wanted to be redeveloped, but also to identify the best reuse strategies for those vacant buildings and lots, sometimes called brownfields.

“Brownfields are a challenging problem in Little Village that many community leaders have tried to address,” said LVEJO Executive Director Antonio Lopez. “Building upon previous efforts to transform neglected brownfield sites, this report provides rich data and viable strategies to ensure that future brownfield redevelopment plans truly meet community needs. The community wants future development projects to provide good paying and stable jobs and to support a healthy environment. A holistic approach to brownfield redevelopment in Little Village is crucial to building a sustainable community.”

“A legacy of heavy industry and disinvestment in Little Village has left a high concentration of brownfields and vacant properties that are not only eyesores but also impediments for community development,” said Delta Institute Senior Manager Margaret Renas. “This strategy lays the groundwork for LVEJO and neighborhood partners to begin to turn these unproductive and potentially unhealthy properties into community-owned businesses and other uses that create or support local jobs, generate property taxes, increase recreational and green space, and promote environmental justice in the community.”

The strategy document includes redevelopment roadmaps for ten brownfield sites to provide LVEJO and potential partners with guidance on how to move from planning to implementation.

It also features eight specific community-based reuse strategies, including:

  • Community-based biodiesel
  • Commercial composting
  • Public green space and multi-modal center
  • Multi-purpose ADA field
  • Shared commercial kitchen
  • Vendor cart sanitizing and storage space
  • Urban indoor farm
  • Private market redevelopment

Delta and LVEJO first began collaborating in 2012 when both organizations were involved in the Fisk and Crawford Reuse Task Force – Delta as facilitator, LVEJO as task force member. The task force was formed to consider strategies to reuse the shuttered Fisk coal plant in Pilsen and the Crawford coal plant in Little Village. Recognizing that the Crawford site represented only one of many brownfields in the Little Village community, Delta and LVEJO forged a partnership to develop a neighborhood redevelopment strategy to begin the transformation of other blighted and vacant spaces in the community.

The organizations are hosting a luncheon in April to discuss the comprehensive strategy, and the unique process used to develop it, in greater detail. Contact Delta or LVEJO for details on the luncheon.

Links:

Executive Summary: http://bit.ly/lvbrownfieldsummary

Full Document: http://bit.ly/lvbrownfieldstrategy

 

Press Contact:

Katie Yocum Musisi, 312-651-4344, kmusisi@delta-institute.org

Kim Wasserman, 773-656-5099, kwasserman@lvejo.org

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About Little Village Environmental Justice Organization: LVEJO is dedicated to serving the families, coworkers, and neighbors and to improving the environment in Little Village, a neighborhood in Chicago’s southwest side. Visit online at www.lvejo.org.

About Delta Institute: Delta Institute works in partnership with business, government and communities in the Great Lakes region to create and implement innovative, market-driven solutions that build environmental resilience, economic vitality and healthy communities. Visit online at www.delta-institute.org.