Category Archives: Infrastructure

Helping Housing in Chicago

There have been some recent developments in the housing industry in Chicago that spell very good news for locals.  Here, we look at two of them:  Acquisition loan from the Wilshire Quinn Income Fund and total renovation of Chicago Lawn.

Part of Wilshire Quinn Capital, the Income Fund is set to give an acquisition loan of $6,400,000 to Chicago IL.  The property has a retail shopping center (rented out by the Burlington Coat Factory, GNC, Chipotle, Sprint and Wendy’s among others).  Wilshire Quinn’s work is conducted with mortgage experts and property owners and those taking loans are contractors seeking rehab financing and individuals seeking to refinance.

Historically, Chicago Lawn has had a terrible reputation.  Not so anymore thanks to a passionate group of residents who got together to turn things around. People in this city – that has been quite segregated until now – are banding together to make a difference. These include people from a range of religions, returning prisoners, and people who have lived in the city for generations. 

Just seven years ago there were more than 650 abandoned homes/apartment buildings in the neighborhood.  But they got help.  They asked for support from organizations including: United Power, the MacArthur Foundation and local governors.  As such, the neighborhood has now been “reclaimed.”

Today – of those 650+ abandoned homes – over 300 are now filled.

City Car Stickers

Some Chicagoans have accumulated fees and tickets due to not updating their city car stickers.  Thanks to a recent announcement from the Mayor, this pressure will be relieved as they will be given the opportunity to purchase a new sticker without incurring any additional fee/back charges for this month only

This could be due to the endeavors of Anna Valencia, City Clerk who worked hard to eliminate the citizen city sticker debt for Chicagoans.  She argued that:

“The city sticker debt is crazy. Only one out of three city sticker tickets are being paid a year. If we keep this debt on the back of our communities, they can’t get jobs. They can’t get child care. They can’t drive to work.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot added:

“Then, beginning Nov. 15, everyone who is in compliance with their city sticker by Oct. 31 will be eligible to have some or all of their city sticker tickets forgiven.It’s a new day in Chicago, and we’re going to make sure that every single person gets a fair shot at economic opportunity.”

Fines for not having a city sticker have jumped tremendously. For example in 2012 the increase was $80 (from $120-$200). This resulted in the huge escalation of ticket debt, fees, late penalties to approximately $275 million in the last 9 years.

Local Transportation News

Riders of Chicago’s Metra could soon be in for a treat.  But it is quite a long time coming. Given that over 50% of its rail cars have been in use for more than four decades, a renovation has been needed for a while.  And now thankfully, that will happen.

On Monday, a news conference took place discussing plans for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)and Rebuild Illinois Program.  With a $45 billion expenditure budget, Metra is earmarked to a decent amount of money, enough to implement some substantial changes within the next five years.

James Derwinski, CEO and Executive of the Metra Board of Directors explained:

“In the next five years, we are going to be able to put out a contract for new cars…that is the first and the biggest one passengers will see all over the system. We are going to be investing in technologies that are going to be looking at the gate circuits and also the switches out there…and start providing critical data before they fail.”

Meanwhile commuters to Indianapolis will be happy to learn that on July 1st OurBus began a trial route to Chicago.  The New York company is charging $10 for each rider, following customer feedback indicating a need for this. The route it will take will begin in Downtown Indianapolis (across from the IndyGo Transit Center), then stop in Zionsville, Lafayette and complete its route between Canal Street and the Chicago River in Jackson Boulevard.

Chicago’s New Business Developments

Chicago skyline

It is anticipated that this new facility will actually create 48 permanent jobs, which in turn will revitalize Chicago’s neighborhoods.  This is good for the entire city of Chicago.  As Alderman Michael Scott Jr. said, it’s not just the jobs that this creates for Chicago.  The positive effect of this is the transformation of the community and its surrounding residents.   

This is not the only construction happening in Chicago. In fact, if one takes a look at the city’s skyline they will see a whole slew of high rises and tower cranes as new projects begin and others take root.  The fact is, 2019 is set to welcome the construction of 4,400 units comprising offices, hotels, condos and other buildings.

Infrastructure Issues

Chicago’s metro is in serious need of updating

Chicago – and actually the entire state of Illinois – needs more money for infrastructure.  currently, according to Illinois DOT acting secretary Matt Magalis, at least $39 billion is needed.  $13 -$15 billion of this would be used in the next decade just for highway maintenance.

Public transit isn’t looking all that good either; $19 billion is needed for that.  And state airports require an investment of $250 million.  A further $800 million is needed for passenger rail and $4 billion for freight rail.  and we haven’t even started talking about the huge amount of capital required to bolster highway capacity.

As Magalis explained:

“Our funding needs are great, but in order for us to drive our economy and our great state forward, we must invest in the maintenance and expansion of our multimodal system.”

Arcadis has been appointed principle contractor for the upgrade of Chicago’s metro red line. The project – valued at $102m – will be a joint project undertaken by Jacobs and Ardmore Roderick and the CTA.  Arcadis will lead the endeavor.  15.4km of track – currently over 100 years old – will be renovated.  this will hopefully lead to reduced need of maintenance which delays city commuters.  Red line stations at Argyle, Berwyn, Bryn Mawr and Lawrence will be completely reconstructed as part of the project. LeeAnn Tomas-Foster of Arcadis explained:

 “This project will improve rider experience, reduce overcrowding and help CTA meet rapidly growing demand for transit service in Chicago. We are honored to work with CTA to improve quality of life for Chicagoans.” 

This is a good start to the infrastructure problems of both the city and the state.

Living in Chicago: What it’s Really Like

The Windy City has definitely become a player in the technological revolution.  Thanks to its attractive business ecosystem, startups and Fortune 500 companies are enjoying what Chicago has to offer.  Indeed, 110 honorees on the 2018 Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies were Chicago-based.

So it’s good that the job market is booming.  But as Alana Semuels pointed out earlier this year, while the:

“number of wealthy census tracts has grown fourfold since 1970, people at the bottom are struggling as much as they always have, if not more—illustrating that it’s not just the white rural poor who are being left behind in today’s economy. The disconnect is why Andrew Diamond, the author of Chicago on the Make, has called Chicago “a combination of Manhattan smashed against Detroit.”

But plans are in place for additional affordable housing.  For example, Logan Square is set to get 30% of the 117 units in the 120 foot tower by North Milwaukee Avenue.  If the project is approved it will help Chicagoans with their housing problems. This is especially so since house prices have increased 17 percent this year.

Chicago’s Dominance

Dave from the City Beautiful talks about the wonders of Chicago including these facts:

• Home to the Obamas
• Most dominant metropolis in the interior of North America
• Almost 10 million residents
• 29 fortune 500 companies
• 2016 World Series Championship Chicago Cubs
• Biggest city between New York City and Los Angeles

He then details how Chicago got here as it wasn’t a foregone conclusion.

City Monitoring

There could soon be a way to monitor things like air quality and vehicle traffic in the city of Chicago.  Thanks to the Array of Things project, real-time data on a city will be assembled to make this happen. With scientists, government officials and just lay people from the community, this data will be formulated for predictions on current environmental fluctuations.

The project is being navigated by the University of Chicago and Argonne’s Urban Center for Computation and Data director, Charlie Catlett who is seeking to install 500 sensor nodes around the city. The plan ultimately is to install a network worldwide to “improve living and working in the city.”

Catlett added:

“We talked to people in the city of Chicago to understand what their challenges are. And we found from talking with them and from our own work there’s a lot of data that’s missing, that should be able to be measured, and that requires data analytics, it requires data integration infrastructure, and it requires a measurement strategy.”

Chicago’s Parking Meters

In line with the 2008 city deal, next year Chicago is slated to pay  $20 million to the private firm which is hired to lease the city’s parking meters.  The money will not be connected to the additional revenues that come from the meters.

As it stands, Chicago Parking Meters suffer losses due to meters being removed or taken out of commission.  Even though the Mayor instigated changes a few years ago in an attempt to improve the situation for city tax payers (including free Sunday parking in some areas), there will still be a 16.3 percent increase from last year due to a “poorly managed” deal.

Meter parking rates have not increased in the city in the last five years.