Remarks by Jonathan Fanton at a Press Event Announcing $26 Million for Chicago Neighborhoods
May 22, 2007 | Speech | Community & Economic Development

Thank you for that generous introduction, Alderman Thomas. I am delighted to be here in Auburn Gresham with Mayor Daley this morning to reaffirm the MacArthur Foundation’s commitment to Chicago, its diverse neighborhoods, and all its people.

I am pleased that Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina is here today.  He is a very important partner in the New Communities Program in Auburn Gresham.  He is joined by Michael Rubinger, national CEO of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation; Andy Mooney, the superb leader of LISC here in Chicago; Jack Markowski, the creative and thoughtful head at the City’s Department of Housing; leaders of the organizations that are hard at work in 16 of this City’s neighborhoods of great promise are all here with us today.

While we work in 65 countries around the world, MacArthur is proud to call Chicago home.  We support the City’s great public institutions, its vibrant artistic and cultural life, and many programs in education and research.  But the New Communities Program brings us directly into  the neighborhoods that give the City its distinctive character and rich diversity – and where its future is being made. 

We believe that the New Communities Program, or NCP as it is known, is leading a renaissance in Chicago neighborhoods that will bring lasting benefits to the City, and provide a model for cities everywhere. 

NCP is based on four core principles:

• That inner-city neighborhoods are sources of untapped potential;

• That, with the help of LISC, a lead agency in each neighborhood can craft a comprehensive plan addressing affordable housing, economic development, schools, safety, jobs, community cohesion and more, all at once;

• That neighborhood organizations have a clear sense of what a community needs to get stronger and open opportunity to all its residents; and

• That sufficient and patient investment must be available for at least ten years.

In May, 2005, Mayor Daley and I joined many of you to celebrate the Quality of Life plans drawn up by community organizations in the 16 neighborhoods that are part of NCP.  The plans, with titles like, “Faith Renewed;” Staking our Claim,” and “A Place to Stay, A Place to Grow” gave evidence of the high hopes and determined energy of the more than 4,000 people who had been involved in the 18 month planning process.  These hopes are now becoming reality.  Affordable housing is being built and preserved, new businesses created and commercial corridors revitalized, and Centers for Working Families are delivering a useful blend of job and financial services.

In the past five years, MacArthur has invested $21 million in the New Communities Program.  This has leveraged $255 million in additional dollars flowing purposefully into the neighborhoods. 

It is always difficult to demonstrate cause and effect, and NCP is still new.  But there are some encouraging signs: business growth is up in all NCP neighborhoods, high school graduation rates are up in two-thirds of the neighborhoods, real estate values have increased in all the neighborhoods.

And there are some very tangible improvements to feel good about.

Not far from here, at 60th and Western Avenue, a major developer is working with Greater Southwest Development Corporation to construct 375,000 square feet of retail space. 

At Madison and Western on the Near West Side, the Haven Square Shopping Center will bring the first grocery store to an area since the 1968 riots devastated retail on the street.

The Logan Square Neighborhood Association attracted a nonprofit developer to preserve 54 units of affordable rental housing that were on the verge of being converted to condominiums.

Because there is a sense that Chicago is on the move, the New Communities Program is attracting attention from around the country.  One example:  National LISC is taking the “Chicago model” to ten other cities from Washington DC to the Bay Area, from Indianapolis to Milwaukee.

So the MacArthur Foundation is feeling very good about its support of the New Communities Project.

That is why I am pleased to announce that the Foundation is renewing its commitment to NCP with a $26-million grant over the next five years.  This is one of the largest grants in the Foundation’s 30-year history.

We are investing once more because we believe in the people of this city and their potential.  We are inspired by the Program’s vision and goals and are confident that they are realistic and achievable.  And we are determined that Chicago will continue to lead the way in renewing the cities of America.

MacArthur pays tribute to the outstanding leadership that LISC’s Chicago team has brought to this endeavor.  It is led by Andy Mooney, and includes Joel Bookman, Susana Vasquez, Keri Blackwell, Ricki Lowitz, Sandra Womack, Patrick Barry, and John McCarron.   The partnership among LISC, the lead agencies in the neighborhoods, other civic organizations, their many local partners, City departments, and the increasing pool of investors gives NCP its remarkable focus, force and momentum. 

We celebrate the achievements and the dedication of the many people and community organizations that are at the heart of NCP.  Your determined hard work, energy, creativity and courage will transform your neighborhoods and contribute to the economic vitality of Chicago and its region.  Together, we will show the way for America’s cities once again to be pathways of opportunity to a fair and decent society worthy of the richest country in the history of the world.

No person has worked harder or more effectively toward that goal than our Mayor.  In fact, none of this progress would have been possible without his partnership—his deep understanding of just the kind of city Chicago can be and his drive to make it happen.  He honors us with his presence, which reminds us once again of his vision for this City as a place of inclusion, opportunity, and bold optimism.  His commitment is absolute and unwavering.  His leadership is renewing our schools, securing affordable housing, beautifying our environment, and assuring Chicago’s place as a truly global city in the new century.  And he has been a great champion of the New Communities Program, even setting up a dedicated staff to help make the Quality of Life plans a reality, and spread their momentum to other neighborhoods.

I am honored to introduce one of the New Communities Program’s most valued partners, Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Stay Informed
Sign up for periodic news updates and event invitations.
Check out our social media content in one place, or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn.