Chicago, IL
United States

Endeleo Institute, Garfield Park Community Council, Rudd Resources Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University

Developing a community-driven vision for the redevelopment of vacant land near public transit. 

In the city of Chicago, most vacant land is found on the South and West Sides, both of which primarily comprise communities of color. Decades of disinvestment have resulted in large tracts of vacant and underutilized land, most of which remains unused, unattractive, and dangerous—exacerbating fears, hopelessness, and low self-esteem among neighbors. Many of these lots are located near public transit stations, leaving opportunities to leverage public transportation assets untouched. Elevated Chicago seeks to better understand the impacts of these vacant lots on the residents living near them. The group also aims to prioritize development that will create more open green space and multi-use and commercial developments to support residents’ mental, emotional, and physical health. Elevated Chicago is a collaborative that leverages the built environment near transit hubs to promote opportunity, equitable development, and community connection. 

Elevated Chicago will partner with the Institute for Housing Studies and Rudd Resources on data collection and content production. The project will use prior walkability studies, administrative data on properties, and publicly available demographic and neighborhood descriptive data. It will capitalize on the city’s current focus on equitable transit-oriented development to establish a database that quantifies the city’s private and publicly owned vacant lots located near transit sites. Elevated Chicago will also convene conversations with two community tables—Kedzie-Lake eHub and 95th Street eHub—giving residents the opportunity to share their experiences, the impacts of vacant lots on their quality of life, and their hopes for vacant lot redevelopment.  

Elevated Chicago’s work is oriented toward producing new policy recommendations for city officials on the sale of city-owned vacant parcels to residents and developers. The group will produce videos about South and West Side vacant lots that feature residents’ stories and experiences, as well as a one-page fact sheet for public distribution that summarizes project findings. This project aims to highlight community-driven options and a community-centered vision for redeveloping vacant land. Elevate Chicago will advocate for action from city planning officials and City Council members who have the power to reshape the vacant land parcels throughout the South and West Sides.