Ed Woodbury has a vision of not only building a city for the 21st Century in South Chicago, but also connecting it to the surrounding neighborhoods. And his plans are starting to come to fruition as the development of a 500-acre site in the long under-served south side of Chicago gets underway. The McCaffery Interests‘ president believes the development could ultimately be even bigger than the Loop in downtown Chicago.
As part of the plan to support neighborhood development, a new venture from UK-based social innovation thinktank The Young Foundation is helping to use TelePresence to share ideas and shape a vision for the area that will identify and develop a strategy to promote the Social Life of the surrounding area.
At a recent press conference on the development site, Cisco EVP Wim Elfrink stressed the iconic nature of the project in Chicago, for which Cisco will help prepare and present the Master ICT Plan, working closely with stakeholders such as architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM). Key considerations here will be a focus on the services provided back to the neighborhood and how to monetize the investments to help drive the economic, social and environment value of the project.Sandi Jackson, long-time resident and Alderman of Chicago’s 7th Ward was enthusiastic about the potential of this collaborative approach coupled with the education initiative announced by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel. The plan is to drive the adoption of Science Technology, Engineering and Math Skills in five high schools located strategically throughout Chicago. Alderman Jackson rightly sees this as a critical foundation for the future of the area and the employability of its citizens.
John Pope, Alderman of the 10th District, whose father worked in the Steel Mills of the Southside, stressed that the project is now moving from concept into the implementation phase. The first visible sign of the new development is already appearing as construction of route 41 along the Lakeshore moves ahead. Not only will this help to accelerate the development of the project, but it will also have a tangible benefit for citizens in surrounding neighborhoods who have lacked decent transport links for the longest period of time.
A lot of great work in community revitalization is already being driven and recognised by LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), community leaders and organizations throughout Chicago. Susana Vasquez, LISC Chicago’s executive director attended the press event and highlighted the imperative to harness innovative approaches to transforming the local economy. As she succintly put it the previous evening in introducing the 18th LISC Neighborhood Development Awards Dinner: “We can and must move forward from being the city of big shoulders to the city of big ideas.”Further innovation is already coming to Chicago through 1871, the U.S.’s first Smart Work Center powered by Cisco technology. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn visited on Wednesday last week for a tour. This new downtown Chicago hub for tech startups which will open its doors on May 2nd is supported by Cisco and partners CDW, Comcast and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center. Its guiding design principles are to promote entrepreneurship, collaboration and greater technology innovation throughout the city.
Following the successful model pioneered by Cisco in the Netherlands, France and Korea, entrepreneurs visiting 1871 will be will be able to rent desks on a month-to-month basis and will have the unique ability to engage a broad workgroup of other entrepreneurs, spawning a new paradigm for how work gets done and how innovation happens. For those of you wondering, 1871 was the year Chicago re-built itself after the great fire, becoming the inspirational city it remains today.
At the Lakeside event, Woodbury also stressed that all parties are looking into how the new IT infrastructure being put in place could benefit the neighborhood and act as a catalyst that could ultimately help to create new jobs. In addition to fostering smarter ways of working in the city, the project will be a showcase of environmental sustainability. Renewable sources such as wind, solar and waste-to-energy are all being considered as part of the mix to reduce the energy footprint of the development.
Cisco looks forward to partnering with these stakeholders to help shape opportunities for today’s and future generations of Chicagoans.
Read Wim Elfrink’s personal perspective on his visit to Chicago here.