Emanuel unveils plan using downtown development fees to help struggling neighborhoods

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is unveiling a new plan to help revitalize the economies of Chicago neighborhoods. (WLS)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is unveiling a new plan to help revitalize the economies of Chicago neighborhoods - something critics of the mayor have called for in the past.

The plan would use Chicago's thriving business and residential areas downtown to help rebuild neighborhoods struggling with unemployment and poverty.

"This is a genesis of how to think about creating resources," Emanuel said.

The mayor called the initiative a "win-win." Downtown developers who want to expand their projects beyond what the zoning allows would pay an additional fee into a neighborhood growth fund.

"So what happens in West Loop becomes a funding source for commercial development in Woodlawn. What happens in River North becomes the resources for Roseland community," Emanuel said.

Developers, in an expanded version of downtown, would pay the fund $10-20 million a year.

Emanuel supporter Melinda Kelly said her Chatham Business Association will help prove the mayor's proposal is not just another political stunt.

"My resources rely on actually doing work and delivering. Not just politics," she said.

But longtime Bronzeville activist Eddie Read is skeptical, especially about Emanuel's plan to let aldermen and his appointees make decisions on where and how the money is spent.

"I think he probably is sincere. But it's the process," Read, of Chicago Black United Communities, said. "Give regular people an opportunity to tell you what it is that's in their interest."

When asked if the idea was a response to campaign charges last year that he favors downtown while neglecting neighborhoods, the mayor said:

"No. It's a response to the businesses and community groups that have been asking for resources for a long time."

The mayor will need City Council approval to put the program in place. He hopes an ordinance is passed during the spring.
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