Morgan Malone, Project Manager at Teamwork Englewood visited us and shared her work related to Quality-of-Life Plan 2016 – Englewood Rising. It was highly inspiring to hear about the groundwork and efforts spearheaded in the Southside, and the role of Teamwork Englewood in the implementation of the Quality of Life Plan since its development in 2005. "How do we engage as many people as possible and make sure there's a commitment here? [...] These aren't update meetings; these are meetings where you must contribute and work". Morgan spoke about the components of the plan itself – she also shared some the challenges and lessons learned about being part of this implementation process.
The Plan has five task forces:
1. Health & Wellness
2. Public safety
3. Education & Youth
4. Housing & Public Space
5. Jobs & Economic Development
Although the themes are straightforward for a plan of this kind, the strategies and programs emerging out of these tasks forces are quite interesting – such as the health navigators, a program to connect residents with health resources or food as medicine which pairs local food providers and health providers, and prioritizes prescriptions that include nutrition recommendations and healthy food.
“Transportation recently became a larger conversation in Englewood [...] with undergoing walkability studies and changes to federal transportation funding" said Morgan. By making stronger connections between health impact and walkability, important steps are being taken to invest in more and high quality mobility infrastructure.
"We will develop Englewood without displacing long-term residents, support increased homeownership, and have a voice in future development in our community" read Morgan from the plan component that describes housing, and walked us through the high impact developments completed in recent years including Whole Foods and Englewood Square (with planned Phase II).
"We are not going to get the quality of life needs met unless the density is there, economic development and housing work hand in hand" said Morgan, and talked about some of their efforts related to Cook County Neighborhood Revitalization Act making recommendations for adjustments in the ordinance. Another program meant to support redevelopment is the Large Lots which emerged as part of the Smart Growth plan and was adopted by the City of Chicago in 2014. Greater Englewood has currently over 1,000 vacant residential lots eligible for purchase via Large Lots. Nonetheless, "we are trying to control as much as possible what that density looks like. We're not willing to take whatever we can get, we want the best fit for the neighborhood."
Property on 6832 S Paulina St acquired through the Large Lots program.
Morgan reflects on the limited positive or meaningful coverage of the neighborhood – outside the Southside Weekly and most recently the Englewood Rising campaign. How do you broadcast a different narrative? Important collaborative efforts have been made, for instance Rock the Beat led by the Public Safety Task Force and including the participation and support of over 300 attendees and 13 employers.
It was incredibly inspiring to hear Morgan talking about Englewood and passionately describing “resident led, resident designed, resident activated” initiatives. She also reflected on pending issues such as the need to strengthen collaboration among the different communities and organizations – “the root of lack of collaboration is the lack of access to capital”. If we want to see what investment, what impact looks like, we have to be more innovative and creative enabling access to capital. Sometimes it means building capacity in our communities, sometimes is working in connecting existing and new resources better. "The only way to change Chicago is to change Englewood, and the only way to change the world is to change Chicago". We share Morgan's enthusiasm and look forward to continue learning about Englewood and collaborating with their organizations.
One of City Open's work groups, is looking at Vacant Land in Chicago. Englewood is highly relevant in this land vacancy challenge because of being the pilot neighborhood for the implementation of City of Chicago's Large Lots program that started in 2014. There is plenty to learn from and to contribute with.
Workshop agenda + notes here.