Put industry first

By Editorial Board

U.S. Bank’s Chicago Neighborhoods Initiative aims to transform two depleted South Side communities into thriving mixed developments.

In the Pullman neighborhood on the far South Side, a plan to revamp the old Ryerson and Son Inc. factory on 111th Street into a retail center with a Walmart is paired with rehabbing nearby historic homes. In Woodlawn, Grove Parc Plaza along Cottage Grove Avenue is already under construction to become Woodlawn Park, a mix of market-rate rental condos and retail.

The projects are partially funded through federal neighborhood stabilization money. The Woodlawn development involves a mix of other funding from several groups, and the Pullman project will use revenue from home sales to continue more rehabs. Construction has begun, but both long-term projects need to receive additional private investments to be completed. The sites are relying largely on hope to continue as planned.

In a tight economy filled with low spirits, betting on hope isn’t a gamble worth taking. Both communities are in dire need of help after decades of disappearing industries. But as we’ve seen with other developments in the city, like the ones west of the United Center, jobs have to exist before residents will move in.

In Pullman, eight historic homes were purchased and rehabbed under the Park Bank name before U.S. Bank took control of Park’s assets, and only three have sold so far. Of the remaining five, one is rented, two have lease-to-own agreements and two remain for sale.

Before creating more slowly-selling housing, these projects need to focus in detail on the industry they will create. Only loose projections of the number of jobs that will be created have been released, and there is no timeframe for jobs to begin. With the exception of Walmart, there have been no specifics mentioned about details or planned partnerships for retail or

commercial developments.

Developers need to communicate with current residents of Pullman and Woodlawn to create ideal plans for retail that best fits the neighborhood. Plans for specific industry and job projections should be fleshed out and put into motion, taking priority over additional housing. Without rebuilding the industry, developers won’t be able to rebuild a neighborhood.