Chicago South Suburbs Awarded $2.3 Million to Use Rail Infrastructure to Revitalize Region

CHICAGO (October 20, 2010)—Forty-two municipalities in Chicago’s south suburbs have been awarded $2.3 million in federal funds to implement a revitalization strategy that will make better use of the region’s established rail infrastructure to focus the development of housing in transit-oriented neighborhoods, attract jobs and foster smart growth. The award is part of $40 million in competitive grants made possible by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Community Challenge Grant program.

At the same time, the south suburbs received a grant of professional services from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Smart Growth Assistance Program.

“Our communities have a thoughtful, coordinated plan to revitalize the Southland in a sustainable way,” said Ed Paesel, Executive Director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA), the recipient organization of the HUD grant and a government association that provides technical assistance and joint services to member municipalities representing a population over 650,000 in Cook and Will Counties. “The federal award is exactly what we need to attract more investment and fast track the great initiatives we already have started here.”

The Sustainable Community Challenge grant recipients are required to meet six livability principles, including providing more transportation choices, promoting affordable housing, enhancing economic competitiveness, and leveraging investments.

The south suburban plan—developed by SSMMA and the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), with support from the Metropolitan Planning Council and a broad range of partners—epitomizes the program’s livability principles. SSMMA will use the federal award to create a land bank and acquisition fund to assemble and maintain properties near transit stations that will be developed into sustainable communities with strong connectivity between households, jobs, and amenities. The EPA professional assistance grant will be used to guide SSMMA and its partners in structuring the land acquisition fund and bank. The initiative will acquire more than 60 acres of land near transit nodes that will lead to the development of over 700 housing units in the next five years and approximately $500 million in construction activity.

The initiatives funded by the Sustainable Community Challenge grant are part of a larger multi-jurisdictional strategy known as the Chicago Southland Green TIME Zone, which emphasizes development around transit, intermodal freight industries, green manufacturing and environmental stewardship. The comprehensive plan is a culmination of years of work among institutions and organizations throughout the region, who committed financial matches as part of SSMMA’s application to HUD. The Green TIME Zone strategy aims to attract 13,000 jobs and $2.3 billion in new income to the area over the next 10 years.

“The south suburbs is poised to thrive in a green economy—with its skilled workforce, transportation infrastructure and proximity to Chicago and international freight hubs,” said Scott Bernstein, President of CNT, a Chicago-based national leader in research and demonstration projects for sustainable development and a long-term strategic partner of SSMMA. “Our innovative redevelopment plan serves as a model for communities across the country similarly endowed with passenger and freight rail assets. Today’s award announcement brings the Green TIME Zone plan closer to fruition.”

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CONTACT:
Emily Robinson, Center for Neighborhood Technology, erobinson@cnt.org, 773-269-4043
Janice Morrissy, South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, jmorrissy@ssmma.org, 708-922-4672

About SSMMA: Located south of the City of Chicago, the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA) is an intergovernmental agency providing technical assistance and joint services to 42 municipalities representing a population over 650,000 in Cook and Will Counties. SSMMA members work cooperatively on transportation, legislation, land use, economic development, recycling, purchasing, stormwater and open space planning, infrastructure, human resources, public safety and housing issues. www.ssmma.org

About CNT: Founded in 1978, CNT is a Chicago-based think- and do tank that works nationally to advance urban sustainability by researching, inventing and testing strategies that use resources more efficiently and equitably. Its programs focus on climate, energy, natural resources, transportation, and community development. CNT is one of eight nonprofits selected from around the world to be recognized by a 2009 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Visit www.cnt.org for more information.