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The Role of Urban Planning, Architecture, and Transportation in Chicago’s Future

This and other transcripts on this site have been provided by a third-party service. The video replay should be considered the definitive record of the event.

SUSAN LONGWORTH: My name is Susan Longworth, and I am a senior advisor for community and economic development here at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. And it is my pleasure to welcome all of you to the fifth in a series of panels bringing together diverse perspectives to build stronger communities under the Chicago Fed's Project Hometown initiative. Our panel today is going to explore the role of urban planning, architecture, and transportation in Chicago's future, and we have an excellent panel convened to discuss this from all angles.

I'm going to kick us off by taking a few minutes to provide an overview of the flow of the panel then we'll introduce our panelists and provide some context for their remarks. We're going to begin with the built environment. Chicago, like many cities in recent years, has seen a resurgence in downtown development, resulting in architecturally-attractive, dense, busy, vibrant places for people to live, work, and play.

Today, we wonder, what is the outlook for this density, this vibrancy, as we think about returning to work through a pandemic and rebuilding from episodes of unrest across our city? What are the opportunities for thinking differently about how we interact in central cities, and what are the risks we should be taking into account?

And as will be a theme throughout this conversation, what is new, and what are lessons that we can bring forward from previous crises and past efforts? So for insights on this, we will start with Blair Kamin, who is the architecture critic for The Chicago Tribune. As a brief aside, bios for all of our speakers can be found at the Chicago Fed Project Hometown webpage.

Next, we will explore what this means for residents in Chicago's communities, particularly those on the South and West Side, many of whom struggle to connect to economic opportunities that exist in job centers just a few miles from where they live. This is not a new conversation, but the pandemic and civil unrest present new challenges and perhaps some new opportunities as well.

We often use the phrase new normal to describe what we are all adjusting to, but what does this really mean for residents in some of Chicago's most disinvested communities? What is, in fact, new, and what should be the expected normal? We will turn to Kevin Sutton, executive director of the Foundation for Homan Square, for his thoughts on this aspect of the conversation.

However, neighborhoods and central cities do not exist in isolation from one another. In fact, they are highly interdependent. The role of connectivity and mobility has taken on heightened importance, as we collectively appreciate the vital role that essential workers play in our daily economies and considered how these individuals move between home and work. What are the resources available and needed for them to do so efficiently and safely? Sharon Feigon, executive director of the Shared-Youth Mobility Center will help us understand how the pandemic may be an opportunity to think differently about equitable public transformation.

So up to this point, our panel discussion could really apply to any medium or large city. In fact, I would say that every city faces the tale of two cities dynamic that is so often used to frame these conversations. However, our focus today is on the city of Chicago and plans for response, redevelopment, and rebuilding in the context of two concurrent crises-- one, a public health crisis and the other that has brought to the forefront longstanding issues of racial and economic disparities. To hear directly from the city, we are honored to have Maurice Cox, commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development.

So following remarks from each of our panelists and depending on time, I may offer them each the opportunity to respond briefly to what they've heard from their colleagues. If we are running a bit short on time, we will move directly into the Q&A session to get to as many questions as possible that were submitted by you in the audience.

So I think that is enough for me, and so I want to get to our panelists and get us started. So I'm going to turn the virtual floor over to Blair Kamin. And Blair, if you could please make sure you are unmuted.

Thank you, Susan, I think I am unmuted. And thank you to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago for convening this session. We're talking today about the roles that architecture, urban planning, and transportation can play in shaping Chicago's future. But in a larger sense, we're going to be talking about two things that are often in conflict-- justice and capitalism. By justice I mean, the quality of being just, righteous, and equitable, a definition personified by the late John Lewis.

By capitalism I mean, well, you know what I mean. Bankers don't need an architecture critic to tell them what capitalism means. I simply want to contrast the notion of equitable and inclusive development with unfettered free enterprise and the Hollywood opposite of John Lewis, Gordon Gekko, who infamously said greed is good. I mean then to contrast sharing the wealth with maximizing shareholder value and uplifting the public realm that all citizens experience with solely emphasizing ever-more-luxurious private space.

These directions, I hasten to add, are not mutually exclusive. If a private individual becomes rich because a company has maximized shareholder value, he or she may seek to share the wealth through the vehicle of philanthropy. So we have a Crown Fountain and a Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. But we also have an Englewood and an Austin.

The proper question, I think, is not is capitalism good or bad. Rather, it's this-- how can capitalism achieve the goals of a more just society and a more just city? How can its aims be bent so that they align with the arc of justice?

This was a hot-button issue even before the pandemic and the unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd. Today, after the looting that devastated downtown Chicago and the near North Side, it's red hot. Chicago, it's often said, is a tale of two cities-- on the one hand, a thriving, glamorous downtown, and on the other hand, the South and West Sides plagued by everything from violence to decades of disinvestment.

To be sure, that characterization is an oversimplification. The North, the South, and West Sides are not monolithic any more than the North Side or downtown are monolithic. Yet, there is more than a grain of truth to this way of seeing things. It's why Mayor Lightfoot's signature urban revitalization program INVEST South/West is called that, not invest Bucktown or invest Lincoln Park.

Even so, the characterization of the two cities is shifting as we speak. Together, the looting and the coronavirus pandemic have, at least temporarily, turned downtown into a ghost town. They threaten the economic viability of everything from trophy office buildings to Mag Mile stores and with them, the tax base of the Midwest's largest city.

So we stand at a crucial juncture, a crossroads where the part of the city that had long seemed rock solid feels like it's teetering on the brink, while the other part-- the destitute part-- has been beset by the triple whammy of the pandemic, the worst gang-related violence in decades, and widespread looting. Now, an optimistic outlook foresees two things.

First, the downtown will bounce back if the looting is stopped and we get a vaccine. Second, the unrest has galvanized leaders in the political, corporate, and philanthropic spheres. And in the long run, it will lead to significant improvements in what might be called the other Chicago. But that, I stress, is the optimistic outlook.

A clear-eyed realist should ask, as we are doing today, whether architecture, urban planning, and transportation have a significant role to play in building a better Chicago-- and I stress the word significant, which is the opposite of marginal. Can these three physical planning fields overcome decades of disinvestment driven by globalization and deindustrialization, as well as systemic racism? Can you revive a business district if the economic engines that once powered that district can put money in people's pockets, from the stockyards to the steel mills, are no longer humming?

Let's start with architecture, which I think has an important role to play, but not, you may be surprised to hear an architectural critic say, a decisive role. Why is architecture so important? Well, as anyone who's ever read my column should know, architecture is the inescapable art. You can ignore a painting or a sculpture, but architecture is ubiquitous. For better and for worse, it shapes how we live.

At its democratic best, architecture spreads the wealth, the commonwealth, revealing that good design can and should benefit everyone, not just the wealthy. Because architects rely on others-- typically corporations and real estate developers-- to build their work, they are ideally situated to resolve the often conflicting roles of capitalism and justice. Form has to follow finance, as well as function.

Because architects are trained to think outside the box, they can help clients recognize and realize the latent potential of a seemingly irredeemable building or piece of land. They also can help to ameliorate the effects of urban poverty through such building types as community centers or through public spaces that make communities attractive and safe.

But it's important to remember what the architects of our structures can and cannot do. Good design cannot, by itself, rebuild the structure of a broken family or change a bigoted mind or induce a risk-averse banker to provide a loan. Design is not destiny. All too often, socially conscious projects on the South and West Sides have provided havens from violence. They have not stopped it.

I don't mean to downplay the social good that good design can accomplish, only to put it in proper perspective. That's why I believe the intertwined fields of urban planning and transportation are the essential areas for us to consider. Great urban planning is why Chicago has a magnificent lakefront, the double-deck engineering marvel at Wacker Drive and Navy Pier-- thank you, Daniel Burnham.

But something else about Burnham's famous 1909 plan of Chicago is also worth remembering. The business leaders who sponsored the plan crushed draft sections that would have uplifted Chicago's downtrodden neighborhoods. The plan, in short, did more for the lakefront and downtown than it did for the city's neighborhoods. Sound familiar?

The point is, urban plans set broad, long-term directions, highlighting areas where crucial resources of infrastructure and public investment should be devoted for everyone's benefit. High-quality transportation matters not just to move people from point A to point B, but to move them upward on the path to economic independence and prosperity. Cities need the right transportation arteries if the entirety of the body politic is to thrive.

A final note, we need to recognize that the best urban planners plan with their ears, not just their. Eyes they are responsive bottom-up public servants, not just visionaries or autocrats who hurl thunderbolts from the top down. Design prototypes constantly you need to shift to adapt to the changing character of neighborhoods, financial markets, and consumer demand. One size, in short, does not fit all, if we are to effectively resolve the competing demands of justice and capitalism. Thank you.

SUSAN LONGWORTH: Thank you very much, Blair, that was fantastic and a great way to really set up what we're going to hear from our other panelists that follow. And in order to do that, I'm going to turn next to Kevin Sutton, who is executive director of the Foundation for Homan Square, which has a long history of representing the needs of that North Lawndale community, certainly as it's been affected by many of the trends that you mentioned. So with that, Kevin, if you could please make sure you are unmuted, and we look forward to hearing from you.

KEVIN SUTTON: Well, good morning, and thank you very much, Susan. I hope that I'm unmuted. Can you hear me? Very good. I want to say first, good morning to all of my colleagues who are on the panel and all of those who are in the virtual world. Thank you so much for this opportunity. I wish that we were coming together under a very different circumstance. Unfortunately, the pandemic, the George Floyd crisis, and then many other sort of historic practices and policies have brought us to what I call the great tipping point.

This tipping point is now being realized across Chicago. And I think that that is what the new normal is amplifying. For many, many decades, systemic racism practices and policies caused particularly communities of color to fall into a state of disrepair and disinvestment. And I believe that for a long time, many believed that those would remain problems for those communities of color. And now, we see that with the pandemic and with the George Floyd incident and then other public unrest that has come from that, that people have reached just the place of complete and utter frustration.

And so the tipping point is that those problems are now moving from communities of color and into other areas, so much so that even our great downtown Chicago and North Michigan Avenue are feeling the impact of the frustration and the disinvestment that poverty and neglect can cause. And so I think that as we think about urban planning and we think about transportation, we have to change the lens and begin to reflect on these things with diversity, inclusion, and also acknowledging that we have to address systemic policies. We can no longer pretend that business as usual will get the job done. It simply will not.

The good news is that the resources are available. We have great corporate citizens. We have great institutions of higher learning, who produce some of the best urban planners worldwide. We have a wonderful political and city government that has the capacity and the resource to do what's right, if that becomes their will to do so. We have plenty of nonprofit partners working in communities of color on the South and West Sides who know the community temperature, know the community will and voice, and are able to lend expertise to what true urban planning can look like and should look like.

And so we have this great opportunity before us to really dive in and do something about addressing some of the systemic issues and challenges that have existed for many, many years. Obviously, we have one of the best transit cities in the country. And so Chicago really can, in fact, use transit-oriented development in a positive way to drive some of this urban planning and redevelopment. And it does not necessarily all have to equal displacement or re-gentrification of communities or driving out communities.

I think that we also have to be ready to recognize that Black and brown flight in Chicago is not going to stop. And unless we figure out a way to really do something about addressing community challenges and issues, we have to do that from a local political and state political and federal political level. But then also, we have to have all of our philanthropic and nonprofit partners, along with our corporate citizens, all rallying together to answer some of these challenges.

I believe that one of the good things about what's going on right now is that people are sort of becoming awoke. There has been this awakening. Everyone seems to be ready to recognize that this challenge and Black and brown communities is not just the challenge for Black and brown communities. And you can see it even in the demonstrations when you look at the diversity-- old, Black, white, straight, male, female, so many different voices coming together to champion the causes and not just about police misconduct but all of the other socioeconomic challenges that we face as a city and unfortunately, that we face as a nation.

And so I believe that when we start to think about the role of urban planning and the role of transit-oriented development, once we begin to really face the fact that we have to look at the policies and the practices that got us here-- you know, where does lending have a place in this? Where does city government have a place in this? Where did we decide to put viaducts and rail lines? Did we ostracize or isolate people?

And obviously, workforce development is going to be crucial, as we think about rebuilding these neighborhoods. How do we get the people who no longer have the training and/or the jobs into a place where they can not only thrive, but work for a living and be able to take care of their families at a thriving level. And I think that that's one thing that has been most acutely brought to the top is that everyone wants the same thing.

People in Black and brown neighborhoods want the same thing as my brothers and sisters in the lighter hue. They want a quality of life. They want a bright, vibrant community. They want public safety. They want their housing to be well managed, to be affordable, and to be able to own it someday. And I think that those are the kinds of things that we have to think about, as we begin to really dig into this conversation long term.

You know, the theme the rallying cry around disinvestment and equity and diversity really can be an opportunity and an alarm to all of us. But I think that we have to be able to address that, not just in Black and brown communities. And I am so grateful that finally, it seems as if we are poised to do that across the city. Thank you.

SUSAN LONGWORTH: Thank you, Kevin. You've managed to frame this as an opportunity. There has been a bright light that's been shone on some of the inequities and challenges that have existed in neighborhoods. These are things that are not new to those of us on this panel and certainly many of us in our audience, but you're reframing it in a way that addressing these issues in all of our self-interest at this point. And that becomes a collective conversation.

But you certainly have put a bright light on the complexities of the situation that come into play now. And one of those systems that is one of the most complex ones is our public transportation system. And so for that, I'm going to turn things over to Sharon Feigon to help us connect some dots.

SHARON FEIGON: Well, thank you. And I think I have some slides here. OK. So I'm Sharon Feigon, and I'm the founder and executive director of the Shared-Use Mobility Center. We are based right here in Chicago. We're a nonprofit. We work in the public interest with a vision to create a multi-modal transportation system that works for all. And so we work across the country with cities, with transit agencies, and shared-mobility companies as well, providing technical assistance, peer learning, partnership, development. And we're working on about 40 different pilot programs. So we're seeing a lot of these issues across the country.

And so I'm here to talk about, as mentioned, the two realities, the two cities. And in some ways, I also framed the two cities now as those who need to travel across the city to get jobs and those who are working from home. Could we go to the next slide, please?

So as mentioned, Chicago has very excellent transportation bones. And in fact, that's how Chicago was developed. The transit system grew, and the neighborhoods grew along with it over a century ago. And it still is considered one of the best systems in the country. And it moves a lot more people on a daily basis than many other systems. Next slide.

And so here we have the mix of modes. We have today, and these are our main providers. But even before the pandemic hit, this system was not able to meet needs fully without long commutes, without crowding, and especially for those who did not work in the downtown and who relied on the bus system. Buses are stuck in traffic all over Chicago, and they carry the most people and they move the slowest.

And our different transit systems are disjointed. Our agencies, it's expensive to transfer between them. Stops on the Metra and the CTA are not well aligned in the city. So we have this strong backbone, but we also have an urgent need to address the first and last mile, and we need flexibility to address that land use changes. And in this pandemic and in the future, we need more flexibility and a more connected system. Next slide, please.

And this is just to show you that mismatch that does exist in our region between transportation, housing, and employment, and especially essential-worker-type jobs that really face increased travel time with multiple transfers on buses that go out to different parts of the region. But if fewer people are going to be going downtown in the future because of work from home, can we take some of the peak demand service and reallocate resources to serve employment centers better? Next slide.

So this graph is to show you the situation. The data really shows the tale of two cities and the differing needs, and it also tells the story of how our transit systems are entering a very severe financial crisis. So transit service dropped dramatically, 80% loss of riders on the CTA. And metro went down to 95%. But interestingly and tellingly, buses on the South and West Sides stayed higher. They stayed at 60% of their total typical utilization.

And the CTA did a good job of keeping service operating at full levels, which was not done in a lot of cities around the country, and they also shifted some of the articulated buses from the North Side to the South Side so that those buses, people could social distance on them. But still, we face a situation where transit is not being used. Our transit system, it's very low. And we need to rebuild trust, and we need to figure out how to do that together, to go from the bottom back up as a city. Next slide.

So what we're seeing now, six months into the pandemic, is that work from home continues. And we think that this trend is here to stay. It had started, actually, before the pandemic but obviously greatly accelerated and unlikely to stay as significant. But if someone was occasionally spending a day at home on their work schedule, perhaps it will go to 25% of the time or 40% of the time. And this has very significant impacts on land use, and it also has it on our transportation system.

And meanwhile, what we're seeing is that the roadways are again becoming crowded. So regionally, we are at 89% of our total auto usage. And this is going to cost all consumers. It's going to be expensive. It creates congestion. It contributes to pollution and climate change and many ramifications of this rise in auto use. So one way that we can build trust and build back our system is to create more holistic systems that provide options and choices and flexibility, where we integrate all our disparate types of service into one system.

The other thing that I just want to note is that we also have to publicize the data. Because from systems around the world, the data is coming back that with social distancing with masks, that these systems are not the spreaders of COVID that they were kind of highlighted to be. There are risks, but they're the same risks we face in many other situations. Next slide, please.

So on the positive note, what we've seen during the pandemic is we've seen an increase in active transportation from people walking around their neighborhoods to increases in biking. And the Divvy bike system, which is now run by Lyft, is actually expanding with new electric bikes and is finally taking hold of a much bigger footprint across the city and so providing access and availability more broadly.

The scooter pilot we had last year has come back and with a cap of 10,000 scooters, so many more scooters, and again, scaled across the city, except for in The Loop. And these are the kinds of solutions that are not necessarily our daily long commutes. They're not really feasible, for the most part, but for those short trips and for flexibility and for the 80% of trips that take place in Chicago that are the non-work trips. And the pandemic has also highlighted the need for improvements in pedestrian safety and pedestrian options. Next slide, please.

So to improve together and to really make things work, we need to make our infrastructure work for us. So the buses need to be prioritized so they can actually move people quickly and get people to their destinations. We need to make sure that people can travel safely, if they are using an electric bike, and we need to do this now. And that's part of the opportunity of the pandemic, while the streets are a little more open and we're testing out extended sidewalks and closed streets. This is giving us a chance to see what they can do for us, and it's a great time to move forward on some of these things. But as was mentioned before, these need to be done carefully, with input and engagement from the communities that will be impacted by them. Next slide.

So finally, what I wanted to come to is the idea of the mobility integration, or what's called now mobility as a service. And this picture here is from Portland, Oregon. It's a system we don't have, really, in Chicago, where we bring all these services together and we have one fare and it's seamless to transfer between them and we're really taking advantage of our existing assets and putting together something much bigger. And this is possible to do, if we can all work together. And during the pandemic, we've seen a lot more strides towards bringing the different siloed agencies together and also the private companies as well. And so this is a moment to capture this momentum.

And what goes along with the technology integration, if I could go to the next slide, is mobility hubs. So this is sort of the mobility part of TOD, and it's a way to build community and build mobility and create a sense of place. And there are some really outstanding grassroots groups in Black and brown communities in Chicago looking to put mobility hubs along the pink line and looking at other sites. And I think this is something we should really capture and take advantage of now because it's going to lead in really positive developments.

And then finally, my last slide that I wanted to share with just some examples of flexible shuttles because this is something that Chicago has not really done much with but is sort of the alternative for the active transportation for people who it's not feasible to ride on bikes or scooters, but they're just simple shuttles that can be flexible, that can come on demand to fill in gaps in service. And with that, the final flight is just to say thank you, and I look forward to the discussion.

SUSAN LONGWORTH: Thank you both so much, Sharon. You've covered an enormous amount of territory-- no pun intended-- during those slides. So we will come back to those. Now we're going to turn it over to Commissioner Cox. Commissioner, we've heard from the design aspect. We've heard about the impact of history and some misguided policies. We've heard about our transportation systems. And obviously, this all comes together in the field of urban planning. So I believe you have some slides as well that I see cued up there. So with that, I'm going to turn it over to you. Thanks so much.

MAURICE COX: Thank you. Thank you, Susan, and thank you to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago for hosting this discussion. I've really enjoyed the threads of this conversation that my fellow panelists have created. I'm here to talk really about Mayor Lightfoot's signature initiative, INVEST South/West and how we would like to begin building the just city that Blair Kamin talks about through actionable items and how the administration is planning to just go about delivering on the promise to build an equitable development scenario for Chicago's neighborhoods on the South Side and the West Side.

And so it starts from us using some of the traditional tools available to planning to set the stage for equity. And central to that is this concept of the requests for proposals from developers. So capitalism or private development traditionally is incentivize by making public investment available. So for example, the TIF financing structure rewards development where development is already happening, and/or public planning policies, like density bonuses and transit-oriented development bonuses, focus on downtowns and focus on where the market naturally wants to go, which may be in northern neighborhoods that are more wealthy and largely white.

So we started to say, could you use instruments like requests for development proposals and the abundance of public land in the South Side and the West Side to solicit proposals that build on neighborhoods' quality-of-life plans in 10 neighborhood geographies. And could we encourage those developments to partner with local non-profits and ultimately create an incentive by using public financing to leverage private development? And so we are starting with three neighborhoods. And eventually, we'll go through 10. But we're starting with Englewood, Auburn-Gresham, and Austin. You can move to the next slide.

And so we commissioned-- pro bono-- a serious reimagining of the public realm along the front doors of neighborhoods. So this is a stretch of Chicago Avenue. And the community has long claimed it as the soul city corridor. And so what we did was to create a framework for reinvestment in publicly-held properties, making it available for private redevelopment, we identified 10 sites, a total of five acres, and over 324 square feet of development potential. And what we did-- next slide-- was to build to build these strategies around existing neighborhood assets, which may be beloved, iconic buildings-- bank buildings, mercantile buildings, schools-- that are on these corridors and that have been shuttered for years and juxtapose that with available parcels for ground-up construction.

So we know these are buildings that are beloved in these neighborhoods. These are investments that can be catalytic and allow other investments to happen around them. And in these corridors are some of the highest transit-served corridors in the city. And then we went a step further-- if you go to the next slide-- to actually work, through a series of community workshops, to signal to developers, these are our expectations, the adaptive reuse of these structures-- new construction that might provide multifamily housing options, a vision that we have of a vibrant public realm that conveys safety and is locally anchored by business opportunities for those existing areas.

And for each corridor-- the next slide-- we went through this process of visioning with the community of every available publicly-held property, looking for synergies with transit. So you see here, a new investment at the metro station at 79th Street as the anchor and a build-out of new development of publicly-owned parcels. But we always went to the key-- if you go to the next-- which was to look at an existing asset that was a locally owned, like this beautiful four-story terracotta building, owned by the Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation, that actually was the Chicago prize winner, to create a healthy hub.

And so starting from their investment that creates local wealth, we decided to RFP the public land directly across the street from it-- go to the next slide-- and once again, convey to those community developers the scale, the vision, the urban feel that this opportunity site represents. And not only, we are able to assure that we have the financial mechanisms to make this vision a reality. Next slide.

And once again, it focuses on a re-energized, vibrant public realm with locally-serving shops, with housing options above, and to create a vision of that dynamic vibrant center that we have come to associate primarily with downtown. Can we do this in nodes in our neighborhoods that would actually provide also opportunities to people to work and play and shop in their neighborhoods? And so go to the next slide.

At Englewood, once again, all of the available parcels that are still publicly owned at the center to create a micro-district of sorts that would be dense, that would be close to transit, and that would create those neighborhood centers that are the signal of vibrant communities. And then we want to do this on a regular basis. So every three months, the city is committing to release a set of RFPs that sketch out a vision of what that community can be so that those who are interested in investing will be attracted to this public anchoring investment and can leverage that for private investments.

As you can see from this schedule, it is focused on delivery, on implementation. We have construction schedules in mind. And we will simply go through neighborhoods in the West Side and the South Side with these kind of catalytic and coordinated investments that we think will lay the foundation for a much more just city and equitable development in Chicago. I'll stop there. Thank you.

SUSAN LONGWORTH: Thank you so much for walking us through that and sort of laying out what is an important but obviously an enormous task as well. I am conscious of our time. So I don't think I promised, but I had alluded to the possibility that we might have some response time. What I'm going to do, actually, is move into a Q&A. And then if you have something that you want to respond to, I trust that our panelists will take as brief a time as possible to touch on any points that they sort of want to be revisit or to make a finer point on.

But I'm going to turn to some of the questions that were submitted by our audience members when they registered, and we had a lot and a lot of really good ones. So I've had the task of combining some of those. And the one I want to lead with is on the concept of trust. And this is something that came up in the questions. It came up in our first Project Hometown panel that was led by Charlie Evans, the president of our bank.

And that is that I think in this current environment, there's so many things that we previously took for granted, whether it was how we moved about the city, where we went shopping, where our children spend their days. All of those things have sort of been turned on their head, and we're being asked to think differently about the risks that we often face and how those risks fall unevenly across the residents in the neighborhoods of our city. And so it's representing into some disciplines that are concentrated in physical development and the built development.

I would like each of you to think about rebuilding trust and what that means, Kevin, whether it be for the residence in Homan Square, Blair, as you think about design. Sharon, you touched on it in your comment. And Maurice, what is the implications for rebuilding trust within the best-laid plans. So that's my first question, and I don't know who would like to go first. I would just ask you to unmute yourself. And I'm watching to see who goes first before I call on people.

KEVIN SUTTON: I'll take a stab at it, Susan, if that's OK.


KEVIN SUTTON: Let me just say, in this whole notion of trust, I think that what communities are looking for are tangible examples of growth and redevelopment. And so when you start talking about trust, it's not about planning. Many of the communities have gone through quality-of-life planning for years. They have very robust plans. They don't necessarily have the expertise or the resources to deliver on those quality-of-life plans.

And so when we think about trust, there's two things that come to mind for me. One is pace, and the other is scale. I believe that when we think about trust, we have to get off this notion that just having a great plan is enough. When we want to rebuild trust in communities, particularly communities of color, we have to think about moving forward at a faster pace, in terms of redevelopment, and we have to think about scale. So building 20 units is not scale. Building 400 units is scale.

And when we think about scale and pace, then we've begun to equal trust. Scale plus pace equal trust because now their communities can see a tangible example of investment and redevelopment that is focused and centered in their demographic area, in the geographic area as well as the demographic area.

And what do I mean by that? That it's affordable-- in other words, they're not going to be displaced-- or that they can come back to a community that they have fled because of quality-of-life issues, affordability, plagued by violence or poor schools or whatever those things are. But scale and pace that's designed to address the demographic as well as geographic need, I think that that gets us to this area of trust quite nicely.

MAURICE COX: And Kevin, I'd love to follow up on that because I have learned through years of planning that trust is not freely given. Trust is earned. And you earn it through actionable progress on plans that communities have long since offered, but have had very few tools for their implementation.

So if you noticed, in my presentation, we focused very, very much on an actionable, tangible evidence of equitable change in their community that is delivered in a timely fashion so that people can see evidence of that change and that we do what we said we would do. And so we're not just thinking about the plan or the solicitation of development. We're talking about the actual construction of the development. We have that in sight.

And all of those plans begin with a set of workshops and honing those quality-of-life plans to see what the community said. If they said, we want to have a core center of our neighborhood on those commercial corridors, well, that's where we start. If they say we want opportunities to work remotely, not from our homes but from a co-working space in our neighborhood downtown, that that is a part of the programmatic agenda that we put up in front of developers and say, the community has asked for places where they can work remotely in nodes, in their neighborhood. Can you deliver that in this development package?

And so trust takes time, and that means frequent touchpoints with the community. And we convene community roundtables now. Every month, we have a group of residents that come together, even before we release the RFPs, so that they can begin to shape the future of those neighborhoods. And I believe that exposing and being transparent about how development happens is also part of the trust-building exercise.


BLAIR KAMIN: Can I interject a note of caution on pace and scale? I agree with Kevin that pace and scale are important. At the same time, I think that quality is perhaps a third leg of that stool that needs to be considered. Pace and scale could have described the rush to build high-rise public housing, which was big scale and happened fast but also had, obviously, awful consequences over the long term. So I think that there a balance to be struck between getting things done and getting things done right, and that's Maurice's challenge, which is extremely difficult.

I also want to ask Maurice, in some ways echoing the point of Kevin raised, which is Maurice, we all agree that actionable plans are great, especially since we're addressing group convened by the Fed. How does one mitigate risk?

In other words, I talked about justice and capitalism. How do you say to a developer who's reluctant to invest in Englewood or Austin because of the socioeconomic composition of the community and assumptions that there might be looting or risk to property values there? How do you mitigate risk and encourage them to invest? What are some of the ways that you do that?

SUSAN LONGWORTH: That's a fantastic question, and I think that we're going to end on that. But Sharon, she wanted to jump in on this question. And then Maurice, we'll come back to this really important question of risk to close us out.

SHARON FEIGON: Yeah, I just wanted to add a couple of comments about trust. One of the first things I thought of when you asked that question is that I talked about rebuilding trust in using the transit system. But at the same time, there are a set of folks who need to use the transit system and have continued to use it. And so actually, there's no time for building trust. It is an essential item in the lives of a lot of people who need to get to jobs. It happens in different ways, I guess, across the region and different communities.

But I also wanted to mention, the point Kevin made about scale-- and of course, Blair had a good point about the quality of the development-- but I do think that the things that we're doing that are very positive developments, they do need to happen at scale because that is one of the better ways to avoid the displacement. When I think of the 606 Trail that many of us spent years and years dreaming that something like that can happen, then it happened, but and then it turns out it leads to all this gentrification and displacement and anger. And so making that just the common thing that happens across the city is one way to counter that, I think.

MAURICE COX: If I could just build on that-- because I think part of the way to mitigate the side effects like displacement of reinvestment in neighborhoods on the South Side and West Side is, in part, to share the risks. I don't think the development community is accustomed to the city shouldering its part of the risk of this initial investment. And that means everything that I showed you on these slides, the city knows that it can finance. So these are not just visions on paper. These have been checked with the available resources that we have to catalyze private development.

The other thing, by socializing this work and getting communities accustomed to seeing what quality looks like, it's preparing those communities to receive the equitable development. And so if you know that a four-story mixed-use building is coming across some of the loved, iconic neighborhood, long before developers even call, people begin to understand that it's something that's not being done to them, but it's being done with them. And they get to determine the level of affordability, which is fiercely a local question in neighborhoods.

And then most importantly, I think for those who are planning long-term investments in neighborhoods is, what else is happening? Is there an equal investment in transit access? Is there an equal investment in a new infill of homeownership opportunities to support these corridors? Is there a planning policy that offsets what happens when you reinvest in public infrastructure and the private sector is there, like even cited in 606?

We could have addressed exactly the displacement that 606 created. We chose not to use our comprehensive set of tools to offset that. So we know that where public investment goes, private investment follows. And so we can use the full set of tools in our tool box to assure that we really do produce equity and justice in this strategy we're talking about build trust.

SUSAN LONGWORTH: All right, so on that note, I'm afraid we're going to have to leave it there. What I've heard from this is excellent conversation that could go on for hours-- and I really wish it could-- it's that we do have an opportunity, albeit at a quite uncomfortable one, to capture some synergies, if you will, resulting from the raised awareness that I think we are seeing.

It's an opportunity that is filled with urgency and also risk-- very real risks. And as Sharon quite rightly points out, there is a lot of risk for individuals who, honestly, have a few choices in whether they assume that risk. But there's an opportunity to align resources, align jobs with transportation, aligned public and private investment, align across disciplines, align pace and scale and also quality. So these are all things that I take away from this and I think that are points for us to-- again, no pun intended-- but to build on.

So as I mentioned when I opened our session, this is the fifth in a series of panels hosted by the Federal Reserve under the Project Hometown banner. I invite our audience to visit the ChicagoFed.org website to view videos and summaries of the previous events and see what's coming up next. And I hope you'll be able to join us for some of those.

Under normal circumstances, this is what I would invite our audience to join me in round of applause for our excellent panel. However, my sincere gratitude for your time and your expertise is going to have to suffice for today. So with that, thank you again to our panelists. Thank you to our audience for spending this time with us this morning. And I think with that, we are adjourned. Everyone have a great rest of your day.

MAURICE COX: Thank you.

SUSAN LONGWORTH: Bye, thank you.

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