The 6th workshop of our fall season was kicked off by Kendra Freeman of the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) on the topic of Equitable Development. Growing up in Cottage Grove Heights in the East Side part of Chicago, Kendra developed a passion for advocating for social equity through research, technical assistance and for the love of all neighborhoods of Chicago. She then went on to receive multiple degrees from DePaul University in Sociology and Public Administration and began her career in improving affordable housing, their people and their communities.
Kendra shared photos of Cabrini Green today and of the past, and reflected how Chicago's understanding of equitable housing has changed over the past sixty years; from a practice of segregation to a more inclusive, mixed income model. Through Urban Institute's National Research Project “The Cost of Segregation”, we now better understand what it costs to live where you live from a social and racial perspective. One of MPC's missions is to identify what social problems currently plague our City and to chart road-maps for more equitable housing, education and economic mobility solutions moving forward.
How does Chicago compare to the rest of the major cities in the country when it comes to segregation? Unfortunately, it ranks very high among the 100 most populous regions of the U.S.
Kendra shared this slide to build a common ground from which to understand what real social equity looks like and what MPC's guiding principles are. Equity isn't just a buzzword. It's a framework for social justice.
Source: Beyond Equality, Equity, Social Justice & Cultural Competency.
So, how can we affect equitable access to wealth-building through more supportive policies? A few programs that Kendra is involved with through MPC illustrate a strategy for policy changes that operate both in the short and long-terms and highlight the problematic and dominant framework that developers currently employ all too often today.
Develop a great idea for a project
Bring the idea to your alderman and “kiss the ring”
Prepare your beautiful design for a public meeting
And finally, present your design and tell the community what they are getting
This model for communication and information gathering highlights what is currently wrong with the traditional principles of community development. MPC is working to normalize diversity, equity and inclusion in this process to bridge the gap for the community and improve the decision making process. MPC focuses on people, place and process, building community ownership, agency and power. Place and race matters. More resilient, vibrant and healthy communities are important, and changes in these processes need to be institutionalized.
Equitable Transit Oriented Development (eTOD) Policy
Take the TOD policy in Chicago for instance. In the near term, MPC identified a need to capitalize on existing assets and update Chicago's TOD policy since transportation is a key connector. If you build denser, you get parking reductions or additional building area, but TOD does not work equally for everyone everywhere. It disproportionately works for the Northside and limited types of developments. MPC identified TOD fixes and the City added about a dozen bus line corridors to the train lines, then MPC partnered with Elevated Chicago to find additional ways to bolster development and to look back at what happened when the initial bus lines were added. What they found out was that Chicago required an even more equitable plan for mitigating displacement and better investment in communities of color. MPC's long term commitment with Elevated Chicago is a collaborative one, including community activists and organizations focused on 7 transit stations where disinvestment is accelerating.
Here are 8 important principles for community engagement that MPC has developed with Elevated Chicago:
Shift our mindset
Co-design community engagement with community
Enable two-way communication & learning
Promote cultural competency and empathy
Value community knowledge & capitalize
Seek & embrace multiple viewpoints
Cultivate leadership & advocacy
Foster ownership & identity in Community
Click here to see the complete document of Community Engagement Principles can be f
Corridor Development Initiatives (CDI)
CDIs create frameworks for finding the best and highest uses for underutilized parcels of City owned land. They employ multiple meetings and block exercises with communities to create hypothetical development scenarios. These scenarios can be voted on and presented to experts who can build proformas that result in high-level guiding principles and recommendations to help shape RFPs.
Kendra shared a few other successful programs like the one between the City Colleges, the University of Chicago and AON that provide internships and tuition payment for associates degrees to promote on-ramps for corporate career paths. Preserving Affordability Together is another initiative to promote the balance of gentrification and growth to get in front of displacement issues to preserve affordability. Specifically in East Garfield Park, we heard about how this initiative has paired real data with advocacy to empower communities and policy makers in the same direction.
Additionally, we were joined by a representative from Garfield Park Community Council, Allen Bosbyshell, where MPC's reach can be felt. Currently, initiatives are in place to incentivize renters into home-ownership opportunities and connect local developers with rehab opportunities to stem the trend of demolition resulting in empty lots.
At its core, MPC promotes connectivity to data and research and opens new lines of communication between policy makers and communities, for the benefit of all.
Our Workshop then broke into 2 groups to ask the question of how ADUs might benefit 2 specific communities and what types of equity problems could ADUs solve?.
JAMES YOUNG is associate principal at Booth Hansen and joined in 2017. James has over 25 years of experience practicing architecture and project management in Chicago in firms such as SCB and Epstein. James has been an active participant in technical studies and advocacy work related to ADUs ordinance during the past year, and co-led a Fall 2019 workshop focused on their research related to ADUs Design Guides.