A local group on Monday hosted its first community discussion on The 78, the proposed $7 billion dollar megadevelopment that would link the Loop to Chinatown.
“The reason why the city of Chicago looks so divided — in not just who lives where they live, but how their communities are resourced — is because we don’t bring everybody into the conversation,” said Niketa Brar, executive director of Chicago United for Equity (CUE), a nonprofit focused on racial equity. “Today is one attempt at starting to shift that civic power.”
Monday’s town hall was the first of three meetings planned by CUE to discuss the megadevelopment. The Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community co-hosted Monday’s gathering, which was held at the Chinatown branch of the Chicago Public Library.
Back in April, the city approved $551 million in public tax subsidies for the building plan proposed by developer Related Midwest.
Built on the large piece of vacant land that extends from Roosevelt Avenue to Chinatown’s northern edge, bordered by Clark Street to the east and the Chicago River to the west, The 78 will include 10,000 new housing units, plus office and commercial space and other attractions.
Related Midwest’s redevelopment agreement with the city also includes a new CTA Red Line station, the realignment of Metra tracks and improvements to Clark Street, among other infrastructure projects.
On Monday, Chinatown residents expressed concerns about affordable housing, property taxes, traffic and transportation, among other issues. Some participants talked about how a megadevelopment with chain restaurants and shops could push out local businesses and residents.
“I’ve visited Chinatown in Washington, D.C. It’s not a Chinatown anymore,” said Ben Lau, executive director of the Chinese American Museum of Chicago, referring to the gentrification of D.C.’s Chinese enclave. “We have to think of … how to preserve the culture here, how to preserve the Chinese restaurants here, especially those small businesses.”
As plans for The 78 and Lincoln Yards, a $6 billion megadevelopment to be built along the north branch of the Chicago River, move forward, CUE’s Brar said it’s important to hear community members’ concerns early in the process.
“If there are going to be two new communities, two new neighborhoods essentially being built from the ground up, we should start with a racial equity lens with a goal to make them as equitable as possible,” she said.
CUE is hosting the second town hall on Saturday, Nov. 9, at Benito Juarez High School — followed by another event with policy leaders on Nov. 18.
Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her on Twitter @estheryjkang.