Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Chicago's Challenge: Maintaining a strong middle class

If you check out his FB page, you might see the term "middle-class" frequently used by 6th Ward Aldermanic candidate Brian Sleet. In fact you might see "middle-class" in an ad that he put in a recent edition of the GCA newsletter. For now here's what the Tribune has to say:
Maintaining a strong middle-class population with safe neighborhoods, jobs, quality housing and good schools will continue to be a mandate for big-city mayors for years to come. In Chicago, efforts to transform troubled neighborhoods into vibrant mixed-income communities, like the city's attempts to improve schools, have proceeded unevenly.

With the economic collapse at the end of the last decade, the rug's been pulled out from neighborhoods throughout Chicago. Dozens of South Loop condominium buildings have unsold units that are up for rent, and home foreclosures threaten the stability of once solidly middle-class blocks in communities including Uptown, Avondale and Chatham.

"We have to work hard, and we have to redouble our efforts," said Joel Bookman, co-director of LISC Chicago, a community development group helping to coordinate a $47 million New Communities Program to bring stability to 16 neighborhoods.

"You want to feel like you have a community that has possibility and that has growth rather than looking at vacant lots, boarded-up buildings and foreclosed properties that not only give a sense of insecurity, but also decrease property values and give people the feeling that their neighborhood and the city is on the decline," Bookman said.

Such perceptions have driven many middle-class residents out of Chicago, as manufacturing jobs disappeared, the crime rate soared and public schools were branded as the nation's worst.

For years, miles of high-rise public housing buildings stretched across the city's skyline, blocking off entire neighborhoods from any hopes of improvement and further defining Chicago as an urban failure.

Today, much of the city's stability rides on the success of the $1.6 billion effort launched by Daley in 2000 to tear down those public housing towers, sending thousands of Chicago's poorest residents to new neighborhoods.
QUESTION: What can we do to keep the neighborhoods in the 6th attractive to middle-class people?

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