Cook County Board President and Oak Park Village President Discuss Using Place-Based Investments to Unleash Regional Prosperity
Friday, May 11th, 2012
CNT partners and funders joined together at the breath-taking Loop offices of Sidley-Austin last week to engage in a lively discussion around Prospering in Place, CNT’s argument for metropolitan Chicago to reinvest in its passenger and freight transportation assets to unlock sustainable growth in the region.
María Choca Urban, transportation and community development director at CNT, set the stage with an overview of the Prospering in Place report. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Oak Park Village President David Pope followed her with their stories of policies and planning initiatives that bring CNT’s report to life. The three talks resulted in a layered perspective of the economic benefits that are possible when numerous municipalities come together to pull off significant investments in transportation infrastructure.
In her remarks, Pres. Preckwinckle voiced support for the report recommendation that urges decision makers to prioritize transportation and real estate investments in places that are primed for growth. The president endorsed the creation of transit- and cargo-oriented developments (TODs and CODs, respectively), especially in southern suburbs like Harvey and western suburbs like Cicero, which have existing transit and freight infrastructure and a high potential for immediate COD success that would benefit the entire region.
Pres. Preckwinkle also said her staff has been investigating the feasibility of developing a land bank in Cook County, such as the Cook County Land Bank Proposal circulated by Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, which would give the county authority to consolidate small plots of land into bigger parcels, eliminating costly assembly legwork for potential industrial developers. By maintaining a regional perspective on new transit and freight developments, Preckwinkle argued, Chicago has the opportunity to create an integrated system of sustainable transportation that can be used as a model worldwide.
Oak Park Village President David Pope echoed Preckwinkle’s call for regional integration of transportation development. The proliferation of sprawl and the reduction of public transportation options is a regional problem and its solutions, therefore, must be addressed regionally, he stated. He said trying to make Oak Park succeed without considering the health of nearby communities like Forest Park or Berwyn ignores the interconnected nature of neighborhood economies, to everyone’s detriment. Reliable public transportation increases employment opportunities for residents, and helps create vibrant places where people want to spend their time and money. Collaboration between municipalities to create a robust, people-oriented transportation network can only yield positive economic results.
With the support of Pres. Preckwinkle, Village President Pope, and others in the room, I left the event hopeful that the region’s decision-makers are thinking about ways to work together in implementing the ideas outlined in Prospering in Place to the benefit of the regional community. Stay tuned to Going Places for updates on more exciting transportation developments as they occur.