Crime and its Impact on Economic Development

Can economic development in or near high-crime areas bring an increased level of safety to these neighborhoods? Or will high crime rates preclude economic development?  How do we encourage investment, especially along our borders, when people do not feel safe?

The Chamber of Commerce asked Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to address these concerns at our third annual economic luncheon next Monday.  Sheriff Dart will be joined by Chris Taliaferro, Alderman of Chicago’s 29th Ward, commonly known as the Austin and Galewood neighborhoods.

After prepared remarks, John Lynch of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation will moderate a Q&A session to include the local police chiefs.

The debate is more than academic.  City planners in Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park are as interested in urban revitalization along their respective borders as in the central business districts of Lake and Madison streets. While there are many factors that go into deciding where to build and invest, the most important one is market demand.  Will people shop, live, work, walk, drive in neighborhoods outside the downtown?

After Oak Park is finished developing the major sites near the west end of our central downtown and those large parcels near Madison Street and Oak Park Avenue, new investment will need to go elsewhere.  And that means the perimeter districts, including Austin.  River Forest will be looking at North Avenue.  Forest Park must contend with Roosevelt Road.

Yet news that a local investor plans to turn an old bank building on the corner of Austin and Lake into a brew pub received mixed support because of its location.

Chicken and the egg.  Do we not build because we are afraid of crime?  Or do we invest with the belief that revitalization creates better, safer neighborhoods? The time for that conversation is now.

The Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce‘s third annual Economic Luncheon will be held Monday, May 16 at 11:30am at Dominican University‘s Parmer Hall.  Sponsored by Community Bank of Oak Park River Forest, Rush Oak Park Hospital and Dominican University‘s Brennan School of Business.  Tickets may be available – call 708.613.0550 or visit www.oprfchamber.org

This blog also appears on www.oakpark.com under the Chamber’s “Getting Down to Business column.

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