Transit Zones Offer Tremendous Job Growth Opportunities
Chicago is northeastern Illinois’ historic center of commerce and employment, yet over the last half century, economic activity has continuously dispersed to outlying suburbs. For the most part nationally, the attention to neighborhood development around transit has focused on mixed-use development with residences, street-level retail and, occasionally, office space.
This paradigm ignores the fact that much vacant land within station areas is strictly zoned for manufacturing or commercial purposes that could attract businesses offering living wages. Next Stop: New Jobs, a new analysis by CNT, addresses these disparities by identifying opportunities to create transit-friendly employment in Chicago.
The exodus from Chicago for greenfield developments in the west and northwest suburbs has left behind them abundant vacant parcels zoned for manufacturing or commercial uses. Many of these vacant properties are located within a half-mile of rail stations, providing opportunities for economic growth with a reduced impact on workers’ transportation expenses and the environment. Next Stop: New Jobs quantitatively assesses each transit station area outside of the central business district and highlights the ones that would best accommodate either industrial or commercial uses.
Discussions of transit-oriented development generally do not address manufacturing opportunities, likely due to the assumptions that industrial activities reduce the attractiveness of nearby housing and retail destinations, or that large building footprints deter pedestrians. However, carefully establishing buffers containing commercial uses and light industry can reduce conflicts with residential uses and provide convenient, walkable connections between multiple amenities and employment centers. Developing these sites could regenerate economically distressed neighborhoods, eliminate regional congestion, cut household transportation expenses, and curb suburban sprawl.
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