Category Archives: Infrastructure

Chicago Businesses Get Boost in New Program

Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new grant program together with the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. This initiative paves the way for nonprofits to assist small businesses that were negatively impacted by the pandemic.

The COVID-19 Small Business Support Program has allocated $2.7 million to 41 NGOs that will offer targeted assistance to Chicago’s small business owners and innovators. Through the program, a variety of different services will be offered including free counseling, coaching, media campaigns, and press coverage. Funding will also be provided for public outdoor activities to showcase small businesses, like “Live Love Shop Rogers Park.”

“[This program] provides an important opportunity to lay the foundation for an enduring, equitable, and inclusive economy. I am grateful to BACP and its partners for bringing this program to life, which truly serves as the next step in our ongoing commitment to revitalizing our businesses and empowering the communities they serve.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot

This small-business boost is a continuation of previous efforts to revive this segment of the economy; the Chi Biz Strong $22 million grant offered financial relief and a $2.3 million grant helped eateries set up outdoor dining.

Fifth Third Bank Invests in Chicago

Fifth Third Bank has announced a plan to invest $20 million in South Chicago, the defunct steel town abandoned by the departure of the South Works steel plant in 1992.

The investment plan includes $2 million in funding for grassroots efforts and $18 million in financing for residential and business loans. Fifth Third’s efforts, in partnership with Claretian Associates, are part of a three-year revitalization scheme to revive the area and correct extended periods of disinvestment and under-funding.

Chicago and Microsoft Partner for Digital Training

On October 1, Microsoft announced a new partnership with Chicago to provide free digital skills training courses for at least 300,000 residents.

 “Accelerate Chicago,” is meant to boost the employability of Chicago citizens who either lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic or those who have few digital skills at all. It will also offer “cross-training” for those looking to pivot their career paths. Accelerate includes free courses on several Microsoft applications and programs.

Lori Lightfoot, Mayor of Chicago, explained that the new program will allow the city to remedy the “socioeconomic fallout” of the COVID-19 pandemic by offering participants “good-paying, sustainable” jobs.

“We have an important opportunity to use this moment to better the lives of those who were struggling long before this pandemic ever struck.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, at a news conference with Microsoft President Brad Smith.

Accelerate has already been launched in New York, Atlanta, Houston, and Louisville, Kentucky.

For Rent: Chicago Office Leasing Up Again

Chicago office space

Entering Q3 of 2021, office rentals in downtown Chicago are beginning to fill up again. As businesses determine protocols for hybrid work models, more and more companies are seeking office space.

Chicago’s downtown firms leased 2.2 million square feet in Q3, nearly 20% more than 2020. Nevertheless, more than 20% of office space in downtown Chicago remained available for rent, mostly because tenants aren’t expecting to operate at full capacity and are not looking for big spaces. Some industry experts say that many of the leases being signed are for companies that gave up their rentals for the majority of 2020 and the beginning of this year. Lockdowns and cost-saving measures had these businesses working remotely; now they are looking to reopen an office and maintain a downtown presence.

The cost of rent also increased by 0.7%, with an average of $40.70 per square foot.

Enhancing Quality of Life for Locals

In an effort to enhance the quality of life for Chicagoans, Mayor Lightfoot has gotten together with the Chicago Departments of Transportation (CDOT) and of Assets, Information and Services (AIS) and developed a Five-Year Capital Plan.  With a commitment to invest in infrastructure and facilities throughout all of the region’s 77 communities, part of the plan’s goal is to get thousands of locals back to work too.

When talking about infrastructure this refers to bridges, sidewalks streetlights, etc.  The plans are to put in $1.4b in General Obligation bond proceeds.  The Mayor explained:

“Our Five-Year Capital Plan is our latest ambitious campaign to invest in Chicago’s residents and businesses,  and lays the groundwork for our future as a premier global destination and the best city in the world to call home. By leading with equity, we are ensuring that this success is not only driven by our historically disinvested communities, but brings our whole city closer together by literally building bridges across neighborhoods and unlocking our full potential for decades to come.”

Gia Biagi, CDOT Commissioner added:

“This Five-Year Capital Plan provides CDOT with the resources to make vital infrastructure investments across the entire city of Chicago, including those prioritized in the Mayor’s Invest South/West Initiative. Through this plan, we will work with our partners to invest in our neighborhoods in a way that emphasizes equity, safety and mobility and lowers the economic and environmental burden of transportation for all of our residents.” 

Video Conferencing City Council Meeting

In an unprecedented move, the Chicago City Council held a meeting using Zoom video conferencing.  This is the first time this has ever been done.  In “attendance” were 48 aldermen and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the latter who chaired the meeting from her City Hall office.  In addition, people from the public were invited to submit comments by phone or email.

On the agenda was one topic – an official amendment to the City Council’s rules  of how such meetings are conducted, thus permitting the use of virtual attendance.  The meeting lasted less than an hour.

Very little was discussed except to set the next City Council meeting for April 22.  However the Mayor was urged by members of the public to shut down the Chicago River scrapyard, General Iron Industries.

City of Chicago Construction Summit

On February 19, 2020 between 10am-2pm, Chicago’s Department of Procurement Services hosted the City of  Chicago Construction Summit at Malcolm X College.  The first event of its kind, attendee Amy DeVallet spoke of the immense “entrepreneurial spirit” she felt while there.

Moshe Victor Keinig, a retired architect from Tel Aviv, Israel, said that he “hoped to be able to get there next year. I heard tremendously positive reports about the event and I am hopeful — given how popular it was this year — it will become an annual occurrence.”

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.