ULI Chicago and the National Trust for Historic Preservation released recommendations and an action agenda May 16 to encourage market-driven reuse of vacant and under-utilized buildings in Chicago.
According to the summary report, Chicago’s older, smaller buildings contribute in key ways to the vitality of the city in terms of economic growth, population diversity, and energy efficiency.
Chicago neighborhoods with mixed vintage blocks have twice the number of jobs in small businesses when compared to areas with newer, larger buildings. Also, more than 60 percent of Chicago’s best restaurants and bars (as listed in Chicago Reader and Chicago Magazine) are located in such neighborhoods.
Developed over the last year by engaging over 80 stakeholders including industry experts and City of Chicago staff and officials, the summary report identifies key barriers for building reuse and recommends strategies to address them to facilitate reinvestment in neighborhoods across Chicago.
Besides weak markets in some neighborhoods, the multi-disciplinary group of stakeholders identified difficult code requirements, limited financial incentives, and difficulty securing financing amongst the most significant barriers limiting building reuse in Chicago.
The Action Agenda includes recommendations to address these challenges by suggesting code modifications to allow more flexibility for reuse projects, expanding existing City policies and programs such as parking relief, and streamlining review processes such as applications for “change of use” that are easily triggered when reusing an older building for a new use.
The summary report also includes advocating for increased flexibility and expansion of Federal Tax Credits as potential game-changers in increasing building reuse opportunities.
The event, attended by over 100 people, marks the beginning of the implementation phase of the project where ULI members and local stakeholders will work in close partnership with the City to further develop recommendations and test them out in targeted neighborhoods.