The largest and greatest sludge plant in the world… wasn’t intended to be that way,” Richard Lanyon, former executive director of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), said to a rapt audience, a playful smile spreading across his face. “It just happened.”
Late in March, the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards heard testimony on a piece of new legislation from 10th Ward Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski Garza. Garza’s ordinance, which passed both the committee and, the following day, City Council, regulates manganese-bearing companies in Chicago by prohibiting new facilities from being built and preventing existing ones from expanding. It also requires that companies that handle bulk materials with manganese have a 150-foot setback from areas that are zoned residential, and that manganese-bearing facilities submit quarterly reports to the Department of Planning and Development detailing the amount of manganese passing through or stored in their facility.
Historically, agriculture and urban planning have had a tight-knit but fraught relationship. In the lower-income neighborhoods of nineteenth-century American cities, livestock—necessary sources of food and wealth—were common, as were concerns about the public health consequences of dense tenements clustered with people and pigs. Some early attempts at outlawing animals for sanitary reasons were met with public derision: As the New York Times reported in 1865 in response to the apparent arrest of a cow in New York City, “The spectacle of ten or twelve policemen guarding a solitary cow on her way to the cattle-jail provokes too much merriment even for those who are interested in having the streets kept clear of four-footed nuisances.” But over the course of the nineteenth century, the expanding power of the field of public health in urban planning meant that many forms of urban agriculture, particularly those involving animals, were significantly curbed.
Last Tuesday, the Cook County Land Bank Authority and Metropolitan Planning Council wrapped up the last of three public meetings with Woodlawn residents held as a precursor to the development of the long-vacant Washington Park National Bank Building at 63rd Street and Cottage Grove. The meetings were part of the Corridor Development Initiative (CDI), a community-oriented process designed to ensure that Woodlawn residents’ suggestions would be incorporated into the final plan for the development.
They don’t want to give agendas to the community. They don’t want to give us anything,” reflected Anderson Chávez, a youth organizer with the Pilsen Alliance. The “they” Chávez was referring to is the Pilsen Land Use Committee (PLUC), an advisory committee set up by Alderman Daniel Solis (25th) to advise him on large-scale developments seeking a home in Pilsen. PLUC is intended to represent the community voice in decision making and uphold an only-in-Pilsen mandate of twenty-one percent affordable housing in all new developments over eight units. The committee is comprised of executives from four local nonprofits: The Resurrection Project, Alivio Medical Center, Eighteenth Street Development Corporation, and the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council.
An empty parcel of land in eastern Pilsen, sitting between Metra and freight tracks and 18th Street, draws little attention to itself—but for some residents, the site has become a battleground for the future of the neighborhood. The luxury developer that owns the land, Property Markets Group (PMG), recently announced big plans for a 465-unit apartment complex on the site called “ParkWorks.”
Murmurs and greetings circulated through the wood-paneled meeting room of Bryn Mawr Community Church as one hundred South Shore residents settled in for the monthly 5th Ward meeting on May 23.
This investigation is the first in a series of projects that will document and explore public housing on the South Side. If you have tips or suggestions about coverage, email firstname.lastname@example.org.