MacArthur Foundation's "New" Initiative

It has seemed at times and to various folks that the MacArthur Foundation has stepped back from urban school reform in Chicago -- a description they disputed in a recent Catalyst. 

One of their current efforts, however, is something called the New Communities Program run by a group called LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corp) that basically tries to merge community development corporations (CDCs) -- traditionally workforce development outfits (aka job training) and education and health initiatives. 

I first came across LISC when I was writing the story of how Little Village HS was being conceived in the meeting room at the Little Village CDC: Constructing a new school.  If you've dealt with them at your school or know about their work, let us know. It sounds interesting.  The plans for the 15 or so communities involved are listed below.   


From LISC:

1. Auburn-Gresham

Though buffeted by white flight, redlining and gangs, this mostly
African-American community has a strong housing stock and more homeowners than
renters. Planners are looking for residential investments and retail growth.

2. Chicago Southwest Includes Chicago Lawn and parts of four communities.

Despite a growing poverty rate and a changing racial and ethnic dynamic,
planners hope to build on area pluses, such as Midway Airport and affordable

3. East Garfield Park

Hit hard by the riots of 1968, the community has seen a decline in population
and has about 1,750 vacant lots. But powered by the rising visibility of the
Garfield Park Conservatory, CTA improvements and interest in historic
graystones, planners hope to spur a turnaround.

4. Englewood

This area has struggled for decades to reverse a declining population and job
base. Residents will focus on job creation, promoting healthy lifestyles and
finding uses for 3,500 vacant lots.

5. Humboldt Park

The community is responding to encroaching gentrification by staking a claim
for longtime residents. Strategies include developing affordable housing and
improving education and health care.

6. Little Village

La Villita is considered the capital of the Mexican Midwest. With
half the residents under age 25, challenges revolve around investing in youth.
Planners want to focus on better schools, violence prevention and health and
social services.

7. Logan Square

Gentrification is issue No. 1 in this neighborhood of sturdy homes and
boulevards. Strategies revolve around preserving diversity and affordable
housing, expanding community school programs and revitalizing Armitage Avenue.

8. North Lawndale

After decades of job loss and population decline, North Lawndale has seen a
resurgence with a new shopping center; Ogden Ave. improvements, and 1,200
housing units planned or under construction. But the challenges of poverty and
high unemployment top the list for planners.

9. Pilsen

This heavily Mexican-American community started in a pilot program in 1998.
It already has developed affordable housing, set up a $300,000 revolving loan
fund for minority contractors and worked with local schools. Work in those areas
is ongoing.

10. Quad Communities

These four communities are undergoing a transformation. Mixed income
developments are replacing CHA projects, schools are being overhauled and
developers are snapping up homes. Strategies revolve around managing those
changes and enhancing retail opportunities and activities for kids.

11. South Chicago

This community, hurt by the loss of steel makers, started in a pilot program
in 1998. It already has set up a homeowners and tenants association and helped
start an after-school program. Residents will update their plan this summer.

12. Washington Park

Planners are focused on creating an employment center, a market for mixed
income housing and setting up a welcome program for residents. More planning
will take place this year.

13. West Haven

This community started in a pilot program in 2000. It is undergoing a rapid
influx of housing and retail development. Residents have helped shepherd that
development, improved a park and set up a CHA resident support program.

14. Woodlawn

The population has stabilized and new construction is starting to fill in
1,700 vacant lots. Planners are focused on housing for a mix of incomes, school
improvements, 63rd St. beautification and retail.

SOURCE: Edited text from individual community plans, published by

Filed under: Foundation Follies

Leave a comment