Emanuel Calls for Developers to Contribute to Low-Income Neighborhoods

The mayor's proposal would pay for development projects in economically depressed neighborhoods, expand Downtown Zoning district.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday announced plans for a program that would use money from downtown developers to pay for projects in low-income Chicago neighborhoods.

The proposal would charge developers extra money for adding additional square footage to downtown buildings. The Zoning Bonus Ordinance that is currently in place allows for additional square footage in downtown developments in exchange for provisions that provide little public benefit.

“We are establishing a new norm in Chicago where our most thriving areas will help our most struggling neighborhoods,” Emanuel said in a press release.

Emanuel's plan will revamp the current system by eliminating bonuses and closing loopholes. This would create funding for economic development projects in underserved neighborhoods like Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Garfield Park.

The initiative could generate $40 to $50 million in the next three or four years.

The plan would call for Emanuel to appoint a cabinet of aldermen and community leaders to recommend development projects for low-income neighborhoods. Emanuel would have final approval over how money is spent.

“It involves looking at every investment we make in Chicago- public, private and non-profit- through a neighborhood lens and having them meet a simple test: Do they also provide economic and job opportunities for residents from under-served neighborhoods,” Emanuel said in the release. “My goal is to ensure that every resident in every neighborhood has an opportunity to participate in the future we are building in Chicago.”

Emanuel has come under fire in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting. McDonald, a 17-year-old African-American teen from Chicago, was shot and killed by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in October of 2014.

As a result of the controversy surrounding the shooting, Emanuel has fallen out of favor with African-American voters who helped elect him in 2011 and 2015.

Emanuel’s proposal could also benefit building developers. The plan would expand the city’s Downtown Zoning district which would allow developers to build high-density buildings in areas they previously weren’t allowed to.

Many of the plan’s details are still unclear, like how much downtown developers will be tasked with paying.

The plan awaits approval from Chicago’s City Council.

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