Catalyzing Private Sector Investment on Chicago’s Southeast Side for Sustainable Revitalization

Lake Calumet with Chicago skyline in the background

Delta Institute is working with our long-term partner, the Illinois International Port District, and are collaborating with local agencies and partners on the Southeast Side of Chicago to utilize the assets and expertise of these neighborhoods to spur private sector investment that prioritizes inclusivity, sustainability, and is centered on the priorities of the people that live and work in these neighborhoods.


Why Our Work is Needed Today

The Southeast Side of Chicago has vibrant communities that have dealt with the impacts of long-term environmental justice and economic disinvestment. We will collaborate to help change that fact. There is an opportunity to create a sustainable investment framework on the Southeast Side of Chicago that improves the environment and advances local economic development efforts, in alignment with community goals.

Brief Overview of What We’re Doing

Delta Institute (Delta) is researching actions that will catalyze private sector neighborhood investment on the Southeast Side, involving inclusive community engagement, environmental and economic development analysis, and private developer outreach, resulting in measurable economic outcomes.

Community Engagement: There are many partnerships, plans, and activities occurring in Southeast Chicago communities. Delta’s work will be designed to augment ongoing initiatives and is prioritizing how to beneficially leverage the assets of local industrial and commercial opportunities, to stimulate redevelopment in adjacent neighborhoods. Delta will undertake ongoing community engagement and coordination with the many active community stakeholders. These efforts will be complementary to both planning occurring at the Illinois International Port District (IIPD) and City-wide industrial corridor planning, including: IIPD’s Master Plan and market assessment; Calumet Collaborative’s Brownfield Mapping Project; The Southeast Environmental Task Force’s Green Economic Industrial Corridor; UIC Great Cities’ Calumet River Communities Plan, and, Calumet Connect’s Databook. Delta convened an advisory committee of local leaders and partners to ensure inclusive planning.

Sustainable Development Guidelines for Specified Southeast Side Parcels: Delta will create development guidelines for identified redevelopment sites, opportunities that promote that reduce disproportionate environmental burdens while integrating amenities that improve public health and quality of life. Our partner communities have established priorities on the practices and operations they want, to both minimize or negate continued environmental justice issues and to grow their neighborhood’s economy. Our work will dovetail with their vision for their homes and businesses.

Brownfields and Vacant Land Revitalization Assessment & Strategy: Analyze the opportunities and constraints of local available/vacant sites along the Calumet River and within nearby neighborhoods through a brownfield prioritization screen, including spatial analysis, real estate market research, development finance analysis, and a strategy guide for advancing successful redevelopment. Through this assessment and strategy work, we will create a list of redevelopment priorities for Southeast Side properties that align with the IIPD Master Plan’s policies, while furthering shared redevelopment goals.

Market Assessment & Strategy: Delta will identify the assets and potential clusters that can be leveraged to create new investment that will drive economic growth throughout the Southeast Side. This will include an analysis of developer- and impact investor- priorities through direct engagement of the developer community.

Workforce Development Strategy: Delta prioritizes inclusive resident integration into economic growth and development efforts. We will evaluate workforce development, training programs, and career ladder development that align job skills with the development opportunities in tandem with our project partners.

Replicability Case Study: A deliverable will include scaling and expansion of this type of engagement strategy to other Chicago neighborhoods and/or Midwestern cities, as identified in our proposed case study.

Aerial view of Port land at the mouth of the Calumet River
Aerial view of Port land at the mouth of the Calumet River
Aerial view of Harborside Marsh Pond, alongside Lake Calumet

Our Goals

Our project will advance several goals and objectives articulated in the IIPD’s Master Plan, while also providing key recommendations for sustainable redevelopment–not just for the Southeast Side but also with implications for other Chicago neighborhoods. Our objectives include:

  • Align current and projected planning activities to positively impact the Southeast Side communities in the Illinois Calumet Region;
  • Engage private industrial and impact investors to identify their interests and needs for developing parcels in the communities throughout the Southeast Side; and,
  • Work with and learn from these communities to develop sustainable industrial redevelopment guidelines that build from their objectives and prioritize equity, environmental justice, and create inclusive local employment opportunities.

Our Partners and Related Efforts

We are grateful to the Illinois International Port District for being a long-term partner in so many projects, efforts, and collaboration. Delta is also deeply appreciative to the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust for investing in this collaboration and the above goals and activities.

Related to this project, Delta Institute has been partnering with the IIPD for several years to help advance the Port’s goals related to community engagement and sustainability; these efforts have been generously underwritten by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. As a result, Delta helped the IIPD secure millions in federal and state investment, as well as reach Green Marine Certification (and subsequent re-certifications), an environmental certification program that offers a comprehensive framework for maritime companies to benchmark and then reduce their environmental footprint. Delta Institute also supported the IIPD and CMAP in developing the Port’s Master Plan. Not only do these activities anchor the IIPD as a community asset toward reaching local environmental and economic goals, but they also demonstrate the ways in which multiple communities throughout the Southeast Side and along the Calumet River and Lake Calumet benefit from its work.

We also are collaborating with the IIPD on a stormwater wetland planning project that is currently underway–one of many projects that are operating through our multi-faceted relationship with this important anchor institution on Chicago’s Southeast Side.

Banner Image courtesy of the Illinois International Port District.

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