New Communities Program: Reflections from the First Year
November 29, 2006 | Press Release | Community & Economic Development

This press release was issued by the New Communities Program (NCP)

The New Communities Program (NCP), an innovative approach to neighborhood redevelopment fueled by comprehensive planning, creative coalitions and the wisdom of community residents, marks the first year of implementation of quality of life plans for 16 Chicago neighborhoods this week.  

Delegations from all 16 NCP neighborhoods assembled at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006 at the Palmer House, 17 E. Monroe St., to review accomplishments to date and honor 28 “Community Heroes.” Most importantly, the groups issued an ambitious “Community Investment Portfolio”—detailed descriptions of 14 proposals worth over $245 million—ready for foundation, government and private sector investment.

The program’s experience shows that some of the city’s most neglected neighborhoods are now ready for serious investment. To date NCP has invested $10.5 million in grants and $13.4 million in loans in the neighborhoods. These funds have leveraged another $230 million of private and philanthropic investment in housing, retail, educational and other community projects.

But much more than money is being invested and produced. Guided by a lead community non-profit organization and aided by urban planners and professional writers, each neighborhood has published a quality-of-life plan that sets forth a five-year agenda for strengthening the neighborhood’s connection to the economic mainstream.

“We were confident that, given the right resources and technical assistance, the 14 lead agencies could engage their communities to create comprehensive plans,” said Andrew Mooney, Senior Program Director of LISC/Chicago, which manages the program. “It is the pragmatism and knowledge of local residents that will transform these plans into realities for the neighborhoods.”
Most of the neighborhood plans were released in May of 2005 and are available for download at NCP’s website:   But the centerpiece of Thursday’s gathering is a “Community Investment Portfolio” of 14 significant projects that are ready for investment.  The proposals range from the Cannery shopping center near 63rd and Western in Chicago Lawn to La Casa, a parish-convent-turned-college-dormitory at 17th and Ashland in Pilsen; from an auto repair shop in Englewood to a total makeover over of the Cottage Grove retail corridor on the Mid-South Side.

“The range and diversity of the projects represents a broader understanding of the complexity of community development,” said Earnest Gates, one of founders of Near West Side CDC, the lead agency in West Haven. “In one community, improvement may be dependent on mixed-income housing, while in another, it depends on new shopping and employment opportunities, a new school or an arts and community center.”

“This goes beyond what is usually construed as ‘urban development,’ forming perhaps a ‘new urban agenda,’” said Jim Capraro, executive director of the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, the NCP lead agency in Chicago Lawn. “We include work that builds family wealth, enhances public safety, fosters mixed-income communities, and even creates community-specific schools.”

Just as important as financial investments have been the broad-based community involvement exemplified by the  28 “Community Heroes” honored at the Palmer House event and who will also be honored in a resolution by the Chicago City Council.  While their particular accomplishments are as diverse as the communities from which they come, all have worked to address the challenges of their neighborhoods and build a cohesive community.

"I want to commend all the residents and organizers involved in NCP for helping us to create a stronger and more vibrant city,” said Mayor Richard M. Daley in a statement.  “They are taking responsibility for strengthening the economic and social life of their neighborhoods, which are, in turn, the strength of our city.  We welcome their vision and ideas, and look forward to our joint work as we turn their visions into reality."

“The health of individual neighborhoods affects the city and the region,” said Jonathan Fanton, President of MacArthur, which provided the seed money for and is a significant funder of NCP.  “These organizations and community heroes are demonstrating what works and offering lessons, not only for Chicago, but for cities across the country.”

NCP is a long-term initiative of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Chicago to support comprehensive community development in Chicago neighborhoods. It seeks to rejuvenate challenged communities, bolster those in danger of losing ground, and preserve the diversity of those in the path of neighborhood change.  The New Communities Program is supported by a major grant from MacArthur.  Additional funding has been provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Chase Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Living Cities, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Louis R. Lurie Foundation, City of Chicago Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, the Partnership for New Communities, Polk Bros. Foundation, Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust, State Farm, the Steans Family Foundation, and the University of Chicago.

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