In new $10 million community investment program, residents nominate their own neighborhood projects

Chicago residents can submit their own community improvement projects and receive up to $1.5 million in funding to improve city-owned land under a program announced Thursday.

The Chicago Works Community Challenge aims to provide $10 million in total for smaller projects, such as converting vacant lots into neighborhood playgrounds or gardens, or improving schools, parks or libraries.

This money will be allocated to each of Chicago’s 7 planning regions. Chicago Works is a five-year capital plan to invest in community infrastructure.

“I want you to tell us about this vacant lot that you would like to see transformed into a playground or a community garden. Your local park or school who could use better facilities. Or your local library that might be missing a community hall,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at an event in Auburn Gresham to kick off the challenge. Thursday marked his second anniversary in office.

Applications will be accepted beginning June 1 and will be available on the Community Challenge website.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a press conference Thursday near 79th and Halsted streets in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“The very soul of this city is in our neighborhoods,” Maurice Cox, commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development, said at the press conference, which was held near 79th and Halsted streets. “And that’s why the investments we’re trying to create are targeted in neighborhoods like the one we’re in right now.”

After initial screening, proposals will be evaluated based on feasibility, design, community input and impact.

Finalists will be interviewed between October and December.

The winning projects should see the light of day in 2022.

Jill E. Washington