Tagpublic private partnership

It’s impossible to track the many investment programs in disinvested Chicago neighborhoods

An article in the Chicago Tribune that announces Chase bank’s increase in the amount of grants it is offering in Chicago goes on to detail myriad existing grant, loan, and donation programs from public and private sources for neighborhoods that have few jobs, few resources, no privilege, and lots of quality of life problems.

But not all of the programs. There are more, but I don’t even know how many more, nor do I know all of their names. I just know that I’ve read about them before.

The article is where I learned that Benefit Chicago – a $100 million investment fund  operated by the Chicago Community Trust, MacArthur Foundation, and Calvert Foundation, but hasn’t finished raising all the money – has started giving out loans and grants to Chicago recipients, including Garfield Produce Company.

Calvert Foundation has a brokerage (I think that’s the best name for it) through which regular Chicagoans can invest $20 minimum and earn 1.0% interest on that investment after 1 year. Longer periods net higher returns.

Anyway, back to my point…

If I were a business owner in Chicago, and I wanted financial assistance to expand my business – say, buy more kitchen equipment to be able to produce more food – where would I start looking?

Is there a list somewhere? Will my alder know? Is there a group in my neighborhood that can help me track down a funder? Is this more complicated than getting a VC to fund a “Bodega killer“?

One of the things I’ve tried to do with the tens of thousands of maps on Chicago Cityscape is highlight when a business or property owner could be eligible for financial assistance based purely on their geography.

Map of areas where you, as a business or property owner, can get funding assistance from publicly-funded programs.

These geographers where government funding is available are marked with a green icon of a dollar bill that links to a Resources page I adapted from a pamphlet the city’s planning department used to produce. These include:

  • TIF (tax increment financing) districts, including whether the district participates in the Small Business Improvement Fund
  • MMRP (micro market recovery program)
  • Enterprise Zone (a state of Illinois program)
  • Industrial Growth Zone (expedited approval processes + environmental remediation money)
  • Special Service Area (SSA; business improvement district)
  • Chicago landmark and National Register of Historic Places districts
  • Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMD), although I forget what assistance is available here
  • Neighborhood Opportunity Fund zones (an interesting policy that charges developers for additional density and grants that money to small business owners on the South and West Sides)

Not every area within the above categories is in a disinvested neighborhood because not every program was designed for that. 

Green dollar bill signs on Chicago Cityscape

Once you know this, I guess you can target your research. But there’s still a lot more to do. To start: Where the heck is Chase investing? Where the heck is Benefit Chicago investing? They don’t publish maps, as far as I can tell.

Actually, thinking about this more, as I reach nearly 400 words in this blog post, I’ve got another idea: Show up at Rahm’s new Small Business Center at City Hall and ask them.

Mayoral candidate Miguel del Valle’s view on sustainable transportation

Active Transportation Alliance executive director Ron Burke wrote a blog on Friday (January 14, 2011) about his meeting with mayoral candidate Miguel del Valle (the current Chicago City Clerk).

Despite those caveats, he talked about his fondness for bicycling, its importance to the city and how his son is an avid cyclist. He also talked about one of the reasons he opposes the city’s parking meter contract, and has joined a lawsuit to overturn it: It’s because it limits the city’s ability to take away parking spaces for building bike lanes and sidewalks, and slowing traffic. We [Active Trans] share these concerns! [emphasis mine]

This meshes with a report Active Transportation Alliance released in June 2009 but recalled parts of the report five months later. But the message that report gave us remains true today and Miguel del Valle is repeating it. Margo O’Hare wrote announcing the report:

This limits any potential projects that use streets with metered spaces: bus rapid transit, bicycle lanes, street festivals, sidewalk expansion, streetscaping, pedestrian bulb-outs, loading zones, rush hour parking control, mid-block crossing, and temporary open spaces. The City’s ability to use streets in fresh, people-centric ways is now dictated, controlled and limited by the arrangements and penalties within the parking meters lease.

In November 2009, the Chicago Reader reported how the Active Transportation Alliance was going to release a new version of the report. Mick Dumke wrote:

Yet Monday night the Active Transportation Alliance inducted Mayor Daley into its “hall of fame,” and the group will soon release a new version of the report—screened beforehand by city officials—that will recant many of the criticisms it made in June.

Said Rob Sadowsky, “On behalf of the Active Transportation Alliance, I would like to simply state that we should not have published this report. I am embarrassed that it not only contains factual errors, but that it also paints an incorrect interpretation of the lease’s overall goals.” Regardless of any errors or misinterpretations, the original report’s essence will prove to be correct and foretelling: The City lost control over its own streets, the most basic and widely used element of neighborhoods and our  transportation system.

I look forward to voting for a mayoral candidate who opposes Mayor Richard M. Daley’s parking meter “lockout” with Morgan Stanley and other investors.

Along with the parking meter lease came the removal of approximately 30,000 high-quality bike parking spaces.

I’ve written a few times about the mayoral election, including the two forums I’ve been to (one at UIC about the economy and higher education, and the second about public school systems at the Chicago Teachers Union).

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