As C.A.R.’s Senior Director of Government Affairs Brian Bernardoni is well known for saying: “There is a city west of Western and south of Roosevelt called Chicago.” It’s important to remember that there are many neighborhoods that aren’t the focus of with development – places where opportunity is ripe. Our Economic Development panel, featuring Keith Lord from The Lord Companies, 15th Ward Alderman Ray Lopez and 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins, was formulated with the intent to help REALTORS® understand what the needs are in neighborhoods outside of the downtown area. Here are a few key ways that you can best effect change, work with the aldermen and spur development.
Start with Education
Just like in residential transactions, emerging communities provide many opportunities for potential investors to tap into, but educating them on resources available — like special loan programs — is key. After all, wealth in many communities is created through the buying, selling and leveraging of real estate. Therefore, the first key to evoking change is through education, so that these communities can move forward, stay connected and get the markets moving.
Keith Lord noted that Chicago is a huge magnet city – people want to live and work here. Millennials are driving companies back downtown – and that’s driving many others back here, as well. Take, for example, McDonald’s relocation to Fulton Market– there’s 2,000 plus jobs, in addition to their Hamburger University, which will require 17,500 hotel rooms in a year. So if you’re a business that works with McDonald’s, you’re coming downtown, too. Corporate relocations are an intriguing option for spurring redevelopment for an entire area – something Alderman Brian Hopkins is interested in seeing happen to the 2nd Ward’s old Finkl Steel site.
Alderman Ray Lopez noted that there has to be a major, significant economic driver in communities with challenges. In the 15th Ward, industrial areas are waiting to find the perfect use. Neighborhoods like Back of the Yards and Austin have been newly designated as retail enterprise zones to help deal with vacancies and get businesses flowing so that the stagnation that has taken hold is broken. And, keep in mind that transformative development goes beyond just one Ward and incorporates numerous neighborhoods – the 606 trail is a good example of this.
Lord encouraged REALTORS® to get to know the opportunity wards, particularly on the south side. If a REALTOR® has the right idea or suggestion to help fulfill a vision or need for the ward, there’s no place easier to get something going. Opportunity wards make the process relatively smooth to get zoning and permits.
Next, it’s important to identify businesses and partners who are willing to work with the community to effect change. Alderman Lopez indicated an enterprise in Back of the Yards that has a brewery, as well as aquaponics farming in an old industrial space. Another example is an urban farm in West Englewood that works in connection with the new Whole Foods and neighboring commercial tenants.
Work with the Alderman
Understand this: if you don’t understand what the Alderman wants and the community needs, you’ll likely fail. Lord said that the best place to make an impact as a REALTOR® is to work with a forward-thinking alderman; they will guide the path to get you where you need to go.
Each alderman works differently, so get to know the aldermen! Both Alderman Hopkins and Alderman Lopez have community members and business leaders they turn to, as a locally-driven, participant committee has a vested interest in making the community better. Working with them to ensure you are having the best impact possible is key to effecting change and rallying support. Coming together at the negotiating table and finding a close consensus for the good of the neighborhood is important for residents, REALTORS® and developers.
Important Questions to Ask When Planning a Development:
– What do you want to see?
– Will it fill a need or help drive the market?
– What defines the character of the community?
Watch the Panel