Chicago Construction News staff writer
The anniversary of INVEST South/West, a revitalization strategy for 10 historically disadvantaged West and South Side communities, was marked in late November with two ground-breaking ceremonies in Austin.
A $47 million Austin United Alliance mixed-use project at 5200 W. Chicago Ave.d and an adjacent $26 million streetscape project led by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) are now underway.
“Thanks to the $2.2 billion in investment commitments from the public and private sectors since the fall of 2019, INVEST South/West is ready to expand its reach beyond retail districts to include nearby residential blocks that are vital to sustainable neighborhood growth,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “We will soon say goodbye to the pervasive vacant lots across the South and West Sides and say hello to new two-flats, three-flats, and other walk-up structures that have been home to Chicago families for generations.
The INVEST South/West neighborhood improvement initiative will expand its focus from commercial corridor investments to include infill development projects that lead to housing construction and residential population growth throughout the strategy’s 10 participating community areas.
New initiatives will include multiple strategies to foster infill development on the estimated 5,600 vacant city lots in targeted communities, including:
- Construction of single-family homes, townhouses and small multi-unit buildings on residential blocks within Auburn Gresham, Bronzeville, East Garfield Park, Englewood, Humboldt Park, and Woodlawn.
- Launching in late-November 2022 with a nationwide Chicago Architecture Center contest that establishes modern design typologies to be built by emerging development firms and made available for affordable home buyers.
- To make custom concept plans available for the redevelopment of corner lots with ground-level stores and upper-story homes.
- Plans will include conceptual architectural drawings, cost estimates and other pre-development considerations that will help emerging, minority-led development firms to efficiently initiate real estate improvements that anchor the corners of key South and West side intersections.
- An online portal that streamlines the sale of surplus City of Chicago properties to private buyers. More than 80% of the 2,000 vacant lots to initially be made available through the portal’s launch this year are located within INVEST South/West communities.
“These programs are prioritizing the development of ‘missing middle’ buildings that small developers can finance and make available to affordable homebuyers and renters,” Department of Planning and Development (DPD) Commissioner Maurice Cox said. “By reducing pre-development costs and streamlining the land acquisition process, these efforts will fast-track new home construction that complements that commercial corridor progress that INVEST South/West successfully expedited in the last three years.”