Jorge Vega, left, shares the results of his breakout group's brainstorming at the September 19 focus group with the help of Ricardo Lopez from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

Development Council Advances Neighborhood Planning at Business Focus Group

Published September 25, 2018

The McKinley Park Development Council continued its work toward a comprehensive neighborhood plan at a first-of-its-kind business focus group on Wednesday, September 19, at the 36Squared Business Incubator. Working with support of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the event drew dozens of local business owners and operators who shared their concerns, priorities and ideas for the community in order to inform the neighborhood plan, a project the council won from CMAP in 2017.

This event was the first of its kind for the McKinley Park neighborhood, which has never enjoyed collaborative business networking or a business-specific support group. In the same manner as the neighborhood plan's resident-focused conclave this past July, smaller breakout groups used oversized maps of the community area to note neighborhood assets, highlight areas of concern and write up their ideas for improvements.

CMAP facilitator Ricardo Lopez led the event, noting the neighborhood plan's focus on many of the commercial corridors in the McKinley Park neighborhood, as well as its significant industrial areas. He also related an overview of the neighborhood plan project, casting the business focus group as one element of the extensive community outreach and study currently underway, with a neighborhood plan delivery date targeted for 2020.

Each breakout group shared their conclusions and ideas with the crowd, with a number of common themes emerging from brainstorming. Leading topics included zoning issues, transportation, public infrastructure and development investment. CMAP facilitators collected all materials and took extensive notes, which will be used to inform the neighborhood plan, Lopez said.

The event venue was hosted through the 36Squared Business Incubator, a burgeoning local center for business activity that also houses the local Illinois Small Business Development Center, a taxpayer-supported resource that provides free support services for small business. Center Executive Director Andrew Fogaty helped kick off the event and highlighted 36Squared's resources and office space for small business, as well as its role to inspire business development in the McKinley Park neighborhood.

Local cafe and catering startup The Bagelers, which has its headquarters at 36Squared, supported the event by providing a delicious breakfast for attendees, as well as participating in the focus group.

The development council also hosted its standing monthly meeting the evening of September 19 at the McKinley Park field house. Development council members and local residents enjoyed a detailed presentation on the history of the Central Manufacturing District by architectural historian and top district expert Erica Ruggiero. The district is one of the most unique and effective manufacturing areas in the history of the U.S., and it deserves to be preserved, Ruggiero said.

The McKinley Park Development Council meets monthly, with its next meeting slated for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 17, at the McKinley Park field house.


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