Flashy Downtown Developers Now Have To Fund Neighborhoods They Usually Ignore

By Mae Rice in News on Feb 19, 2016 5:15PM

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Chicago's downtown is teeming with developers, though they are not pictured here (photo via Octavio Ruiz Cervera on Flickr)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans Thursday to give downtown developers leeway to build larger, more ambitious projects—if they help fund projects in low-income neighborhoods.

Emanuel is asking developers to pay a Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus that the city will funnel towards development in low-income areas. Emanuel says this new setup, which will replace an outdated bonus structure and close what City Hall terms “loopholes,” could bring in tens of millions of dollars, based on the administration’s assessment of current construction trends.

Neighborhoods that could benefit from the bonus funds include, in City Hall's estimation, Greater Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Garfield Park.

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

Developers would pay the new bonus in exchange for extra square-footage allotments downtown, and bonus funds could help reinvigorate “neighborhoods facing poverty, high unemployment and other indicators of underinvestment by the private market,” according to the Mayor’s statement.

Projects could include building grocery stores in food deserts, or revitalizing retail corridors entering their twilight years.

This is “obviously” an attempt to court black voters and earn a third term as Mayor, according to the Sun-Times.