City Hall’s South/West Side Revitalization Plan Much Ado About Nothing

If you read an announcement about something that described itself as “unprecedented,” “inclusive,” “comprehensively focused,” and “meaningful,” you might think it’s the latest bit of smoke and mirrors out of a California tech company’s PR wing.  You probably wouldn’t expect it from Chicago City Hall.

This week’s big announcement that the city is going to do something or other with $750 million to help the South and West sides is virtually all puffery. 

If you actually read beyond the INVEST South/West headline, you will discover that the pledged $750 million will actually be doled out over the span of three years. So, $250 million a year.  Divided by ten neighborhoods.  So, an average of $25 million a year per neighborhood.  Better than nothing, right?

Well, keep reading and you find out that this isn’t new money.  It’s money that the city has already promised to these neighborhoods in the form of infrastructure improvements. 

So what exactly is the city doing that’s worthy of so much hype?  It’s “aligning” the money.  Don’t know what that means?  Let’s let City Hall explain:

Through this groundbreaking collaborative by government, businesses, philanthropies, and community leaders, the City will align more than $750 million in already allocated funding over the next three years.

So… not any new money.  Just the same old money.  But “aligned.”  Not bonus money the south and west sides need desperately.  But the same old tax money they were already due, just “aligned.”  Because previously it must have been misaligned.

How does money get “aligned?”  According to the city:

A series of community conversations… will seek to garner input on proposed priority corridors, collect feedback on priority public investments, and review metrics for success as tailored community growth plans are created in each community.

So conversations will seek to garner tailored growth metrics.  It sounds like something straight out of a Dilbert cartoon, or a random buzzword generator. (For laughs, run the city’s press release here through this bullshit detector.)

According to the city’s press release, it seems like the only new money is $10 million coming from BMO Harris Bank.  It’s supposed to lure other corporations into donating money to this program.  If it works, fantastic.  Like we said, the south and west sides need help.  But if the city’s idea of “help” is putting a ribbon on a promise already made and then patting itself on the back for it, then it’s just more of the same LaSalle Street doubletalk we’ve heard for generations.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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