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Chicago announces equitable transit-oriented development pilot program

The Emmett St. all-affordable transit-oriented development rises next to the Logan Square Blue Line station. Photo: John Greenfield

Last fall the city of Chicago released the Equitable Transit Oriented Development Policy Plan. Transit-oriented development is high-density, parking-lite development near rapid and/or high-frequency train or bus service. The city defines eTOD as “development that enables all people, regardless of income, race, ethnicity, age, gender, immigration status or ability, to experience the benefits of dense, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented development near transit hubs.” Mayor Lori Lightfoot is building on the plan by launching a new eTOD Pilot Program. The pilot program is aimed at supporting “community-driven projects that promote healthy, affordable, and accessible development near transit.”

The pilot program, created in partnership with Elevated Chicago, Enterprise Community Partners, and members of the eTOD Working Group, has $135,000 to support up to ten community driven eTOD proposals. Proposals will be selected through what the city says was an open and transparent two-round application process. A selection committee of city staff, community groups, developers, and other experts will review and identify pilot projects. The application process opened last Tuesday, and the application is available at www.chi.gov/etod

Winning pilot projects will receive micro-grants to enhance equity-focused components of their proposal. If the plan has a community ownership component, it will be eligible for larger grants of twenty thousand dollars. Technical assistance such as initial project planning, help with administrative hurdles, and assistance securing additional financing will also be available for selected eTOD pilot projects.

In a press release about the pilot program, Chicago Department of Housing commissioner Marisa Novara stated, “The benefits of living near public transportation, from walkable pedestrian-friendly spaces and access to jobs and other amenities, are amenities that all Chicagoans deserve to have in every neighborhood." Commenting specifically on the pilot project, Novara said, “I look forward to the innovative solutions that this [request for proposals] will garner, ideas that come from communities and for communities to advance equitable development.”

I too am looking forward to the city’s eTOD plan producing community-led transit-oriented projects on the South and West sides. On my first visit to Chicago almost a decade ago I immediately noticed the difference between transit-oriented land-use patterns on the North Side and car-oriented land use on the South and West sides. The eTOD pilot project is a step in the right direction of a long road toward creating equitable, prosperous, and sustainable communities across Chicago.

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