New ‘We Will Chicago’ ini­tia­tive seeks to cre­ate a city­wide plan

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY DAVID ROEDER, BUSI­NESS & LA­BOR RE­PORTER droeder@sun­times.com | @Roed­erDavid

The city’s plan­ning agency said Thurs­day it will launch a more than two-year “city­wide conversati­on” lead­ing to a new guide for de­vel­op­ment and pub­lic works projects, the first such com­pre­hen­sive ef­fort since 1966.

Out­lin­ing the “We Will Chicago” ini­tia­tive dur­ing a meet­ing of the Chicago Plan Com­mis­sion, city of­fi­cials said they will work with out­side groups to so­licit rec­om­men­da­tions from ev­ery­day Chicagoans about how the city should evolve. They said it will ad­vance Mayor Lori Light­foot’s goals that in­clude en­hanc­ing hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity and in­creas­ing job op­por­tu­ni­ties in ne­glected ar­eas.

The timetable the Depart­ment of Plan­ning and De­vel­op­ment laid out called for a draft re­port to be de­liv­ered early in 2023, just be­fore the next may­oral elec­tion. First Deputy Plan­ning Com­mis­sioner Eleanor Gorski said the tim­ing was in­ten­tional be­cause Light­foot is ea­ger to show peo­ple progress on over­all prin­ci­ples of eq­uity, di­ver­sity and re­siliency.

“We don’t want this cross­ing into a new ad­min­is­tra­tion, if that’s the case. There could be new demands,” Gorski told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Plan­ning Com­mis­sioner Mau­rice Cox told the com­mis­sion, “It is time to have a city­wide conversati­on about the city that we want to cre­ate.”

Keep­ing the fo­cus on a longer-term ef­fort when im­me­di­ate wor­ries in­clude a pan­demic, a par­tially shut­tered econ­omy and a dev­as­tated city bud­get will be a chal­lenge. Gorski said of­fi­cials dis­cussed in­ter­nally whether now is the time to start work on a new city plan. “We de­cided that it’s more a case of,

‘How can we not af­ford to do it?’ ” she said.

Gorski said the plan will ad­dress crime and unite Chicagoans around so­lu­tions. “I may be naïve on this point, but I’m hop­ing we can use this to be­come a stronger city,” she said.

The plan­ning process will of­fi­cially start in Septem­ber, and re­mote work­shops are ex­pected later this year, Gorski said. The ef­fort has a web page at chicago.gov/city/en/depts/ dcd/prov­drs/we_will_chicago.html.

Plan com­mis­sion mem­bers praised the over­all goals. Ald. Wal­ter Bur­nett Jr. (27th) said he hopes the process will give some pro­test­ers a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the down­town area’s eco­nomic im­por­tance to the neigh­bor­hoods. “To be hon­est, most com­mu­ni­ties are pretty much the same with their con­cerns,” Bur­nett said. “It’s just that some have more money than oth­ers.”

Gorski said the ef­fort may cost the city up to $1 mil­lion a year, mostly for con­sul­tants to help with writ­ing and edit­ing, but or­ga­ni­za­tions will con­trib­ute much la­bor for free. These in­clude the Chicago Met­ro­pol­i­tan Agency for Plan­ning, the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Plan­ning Coun­cil and Bloomberg As­so­ciates, a phi­lan­thropic con­sult­ing firm founded by for­mer New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The pub­lic re­la­tions firm Edel­man also is do­nat­ing help.

The city will seek to place on the Novem­ber bal­lot an ad­vi­sory ref­er­en­dum ask­ing vot­ers’ opin­ion about the plan’s over­ar­ch­ing goals of eq­uity, di­ver­sity and re­siliency, Gorski said.

When fin­ished, the doc­u­ment would be sub­mit­ted to the plan com­mis­sion and the City Coun­cil for ap­proval. Gorski said the last such city­wide plan in 1966 had of­fi­cial sta­tus but never got for­mal ap­proval.

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