Thank you to everyone who participated this Spring season! We are very excited that new teams were assembled and explored very interesting topics.
On April 30th, each team that had participated in the Spring season shared their final presentations. This was a recap of the work that had been completed, obstacles and wins each team had encountered, and some of the next steps the community group could engage with or continue onward as another phase of a City Open project.
Churches of the Future
Over the last season, the Churches of the Future group met with the United Church of Rogers Park and worked with the Pastor and staff to help understand flexible and proactive ways for the church to manage their campus of faith buildings, offices, and community uses. Declining church attendance has meant that the congregation is only 50 people but the building itself hosts various non-profits, community resources and social justice groups. One of the main tension the group found was how to best use church spaces and facilities in order to keep the church operational but to also serve many different groups with limited means. The Churches of the Future group ultimately developed a series of yes or no cards that the United Church of Rogers Park could use to work through decisions on how to program, including building size, goals of the community, time of day, etc. The group was excited to carry forward testing these cards and decisions more fully within the congregation and community, but also use a similar method on future planning engagements.
Vacant Land Stewardship
The Office of Land Stewardship group presented a manual they had started to develop that would help citizens, neighborhood groups and other organizations navigate the various pathways to acquiring city-owned land in the City of Chicago. They prototyped a "Guide for Land Stewards", a kind of manual to integrate different sources of information about different land acquisition processes available and make this information accessible and clear in response to the opacity and redundancy of these different existing programs. One of the main issues experienced with city-owned land acquisition is the variety of different taxes and laws that trigger to the owner once there are improvements made or deeds transferred. For example, once a vacant parcel is acquired, a fence must be created around the land at the owner's expense. Overall, with the Large Lots program and other opportunities that are being created to transfer vacant land, the Vacant Land Stewardship group wants to help ensure that the land is maintained or improved, but also not in a way that cripples the budget or time of the individual acquiring that land.
The affordable housing group in partnership with the Pilsen Alliance worked all season to raise awareness of Affordable Housing requirements for developers in the Pilsen community as well as continuing to question some of the developments advancing in the neighborhood. They additionally had worked on creating a discourse workshop on the same topic at Benito Juarez High School. Overall, at the final presentation, the group acknowledged the difficulty on honing in on specific materials to create or goals to complete in a four month sprint. Some of their work to create meetings and awareness campaigns were slowed as well when it was difficult to coordinate with the high school. Going forward, the group is interested in narrowing the topic focus, whether that is a more targeted awareness campaign or examining affordable housing policy.
You can find more about the projects from this Spring in their project pages: Churches of the Future, Vacant Land Stewardship, and Affordable Housing.
See you in the Fall! Stay tuned for our calendar and our list of speakers!