CHICAGO — Chicago hasn’t had an easy decade: Exploding murder rates, water contaminated with lead and growing inequity between the haves and have-nots are just a few of the things hitting this iconic city brand.
But Chicago — a city with a history and robust mix of venues, arts and public spaces that only a handful of other cities can claim — seems to be having a moment. It’s thanks to some new leadership and proposed developments that promise to be transformational. Here are five things driving the winds of change in Chicago:
- Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot: Lightfoot was sworn in as Chicago’s mayor on May 20, 2019. She made history as the city’s first African-American mayor. She is also its first openly gay mayor. She ran on a platform of “bringing in the light” for a new path in Chicago, according to her website, which included plans to address taxes and fees for middle and low-income families, and deal with declining conditions of neighborhood schools and neighborhood violence. She marked 100 days in office on Aug. 27, 2019. “Have we done everything in 100 days? Of course not. Is there a lot more that needs to be done? Yes,” Lightfoot was quoted in a Chicago Tribune article. “But I feel very good about where we are and also setting the right tone for city government.”
- Appointments: Among Lightfoot’s appointments are Candace Moore as the city’s first chief equity officer and Maurice Cox as commissioner of planning and development. “Chicago is one of the most architecturally beautiful and inspiring cities in the world,” said Cox in a press release on the mayor’s city website. “It is an honor to join Mayor Lightfoot’s team in our effort to harness the creative energy and resources that presently fuel the resurgence of downtown and expand it to all neighborhoods to create a more equitable and just city.” Chief Equity Officer Moore will oversee the Office of Equity and Racial Justice.
- Casino: Though a proposed casino for the city has hit some roadblocks, its proponents see it as a potential source of new revenue and job creation. It is still in the planning phases and its future is uncertain. But it promises to increase Chicago’s tourism brand.
- The Obama Presidential Center: Planned for Chicago’s South Side, the center is described as an “economic engine for the city,” on its website. “It will draw hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, creating thousands of new jobs on the South Side, while giving new life to Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision of a cohesive, walkable and iconic Jackson Park,” according to the site. The center plans include a museum, a two-story public meeting space called The Forum, a library, a public plaza and an athletic center.
- Cranes: Rider Levett Bucknall’s Crane Index for North America tracks operating tower cranes in 13 cities across the United States and Canada. For January 2019, it found a decline in crane count in Chicago because of project completion. However, the summary concluded that construction activity has remained high with 10 to 15 major projects expected to break ground in 2019. The cranes will be back.
Taken as a whole, these five elements of life in Chicago paint a picture of a city attempting to build its future. Only time will tell where these major investments in people and developments will take the city. But Chicago looks to be creating a roadmap for other American cities to follow.
© CityAge 2019