What is the Future of Our Neighborhood?

Published February 23, 2018

Alma Anaya photoAlma AnayaBy Alma Anaya, candidate for 7th District Cook County Commissioner

Off I-55 and a few minutes away from the bustle of downtown Chicago, we find McKinley Park, a quaint, diverse, working-class neighborhood that boasts being the geographic center of our city. I have worked for Cook County 7th District Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia for the past six years; the last three have been in our office in McKinley Park. It’s a great neighborhood for our office as it is conveniently positioned as the gateway to the broader Southwest Side, easily accessible by public transit and a hop away from the neighborhoods in the 7th District north of the river.

Chicago is undergoing a housing crisis as property values increase and residents are being displaced from communities that were once affordable and a refuge for working-class families. McKinley Park is no exception to this, and as new developments come to the community, it is crucial that residents define a vision for what McKinley Park seeks to become in the future.

At least two important efforts are currently underway that can mold the future of McKinley Park. Last year, a few residents in the neighborhood formed the McKinley Park Development Council. They applied and received, with the support of the 7th District, a grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to gather insights and ideas from residents. The council aims to work both with neighborhood groups and citywide partners to further ideas focusing on creating transit-oriented development around the 35th and Archer Orange Line stop, revitalize the manufacturing district and infuse local retail.

As Cook County Commissioner, I promise to use our office as a way to engage and empower residents in any effort to draw a vision for the community. I plan to strengthen economic development in the neighborhood through initiatives that inform the community about zoning practices, host workshops to certify businesses for minority and women ownership, and connect any county resources to revitalize our neighborhoods. However, I believe the primary fuel for this community development  is community engagement.

From housing, businesses and transit to manufacturing, residents can weigh in on changes they would like to see in the neighborhood. However, these changes will only reflect those whose voices are heard. As a current candidate to represent the 7th District in the Cook County Board of Commissioners, I believe this is the moment to engage the diversity of our community equitably.

The most recent American Community Survey released in 2015 indicates that the majority of McKinley Park residents identify either as Latino or Asian, and it is essential that the diverse voices that make up our community are involved in building a framework that can shape our neighborhood for many years to come.

Additionally, the City of Chicago recently announced it was seeking bids from developers to rehabilitate a portion of the Central Manufacturing District through the Reinventing Cities competition, which supports cutting-edge and environmentally cognizant design projects. Such rehab would have the flexibility of rezoning the buildings in the Manufacturing District to include housing and could influence the residential landscape of the neighborhood.

It is important that being the strong community we are, we educate and include each other in this critical dialogue and expand our partnerships to foster a cohesive and holistic vision for what McKinley Park can become. I urge everyone to get involved in these efforts; you can get more information on the McKinley Park Development Council by going to their website  at mckinleyparkdevelopmentcouncil.org.

You can find more information on my campaign for 7th District Cook County Commissioner at almaforcookcounty.com


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