2020 is – at its heart – a year about resilience. Resilience against injustice, against climate impacts, against generational inequity. But for many Chicago communities, resiliency is an ongoing campaign – not just in 2020.
Located on Chicago's Southwest Side, Little Village – often called by residents 'La Villita' – is home to primarily Latinx families (with a sizable first-generation immigrant population). Little Village is one of the densest Chicago communities, with 17,000 people per square mile. Little Village also has the least amount of green space per capita and inherited much of the City's legacy industrial pollution, being located adjacent to the third largest industrial corridor in Chicago.
With the goal of promoting economic development, revitalization, and environmental justice in the community, the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and Delta Institute have collaborated since 2012 – starting by building consensus on the closure and redevelopment of the Crawford coal plant on the Southeast Side of the neighborhood, then creating the Little Village Vacant Property and Brownfield Redevelopment Strategy for the potential redevelopment of more than 250+ mapped brownfields.
These efforts directly led to the LVEJO-Delta initiative to create a new community hub that will provide the local neighborhood with the means to create a robust local economy based on solidarity and self-determination through workforce development, food access/equity, arts programming, and neighborhood mobilization.
The collaboration between Delta Institute and LVEJO led to identifying this vacant former Chicago Fire Department engine house as the proposed site for Centro de Solidaridad Mi Villita. This project hopes to create a closed loop sustainable food economy, increase employment and incomes through a bilingual Workforce Development Agency, and preserve/enhance the role of local artists.
Our project’s Theory of Change is rooted in the core belief that when communities are allowed to prioritize and plan redevelopment using their experience, they then have the power and agency to transform their neighborhoods and broader society. This project was a Finalist for the first Chicago Prize (watch our application video here!), the $10M award competition held this year by the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, and though we did not win the competition, we remain committed to a sustainable future for Little Village.
Together we are working for a resilient Little Village, offering future generations with economic access, democratic inclusion, living wage job generation, and workforce development.
Sending our best in a challenging year, sincerely,
CEO, Delta Institute
Executive Director, LVEJO