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By Robert Pratt | Broker in Chicago, IL

Chicago is not “Shrinking”

With a 20% population drop since 1950, Chicago is assumed to be a shrinking city. A marked increase in recent developments in the South Loop and West Loop, however, argue otherwise.

The subject of the “shrinking” of Chicago was the topic of discussion at a seminar held by the Chicago Association of Realtors at the DePaul center in late May, where experts met to discuss their opinions on the matter.

Chicago’s decrease in population was a statistic that was hard to ignore, but the urban planners, developers, and other real estate experts at the meeting agreed there was immeasurable untapped potential in the development of large areas of vacant land on the south and west sides of Chicago.

Their hope is that these new developments—largely ignored by the media due to their distance from the action—will continue to draw in people from the surrounding areas, repopulating Chicago and keeping it from becoming another Gary or Detroit, where drastic drops in population have yielded skyrocketing levels of blight and abandoned properties.

Of course, “shrinking” isn’t exactly the most accurate term to describe what may or may not be happening to Chicago—cities don’t physically decrease in size.

According to CAR director of government affairs Brian Bernardoni, “what does shrink is productivity, jobs and job opportunity, tax bases and population." Following this, it’s only a matter of time before a city falls into a state of disrepair.

But there’s still hope for the Windy City. The spotlight may not be aimed at the south and west sides of Chicago, but there are a ton of new construction projects going on there.

Some of the large-scale development projects currently being planned are the conversion of an old steel mill on Lake Michigan, from 79th street to 95th street, into a marina, housing, retail, food shops and park space. In addition, DePaul University has plans to build a new stadium, McCormick Place is slated for expansion, State Street will receive broadband upgrades, and there may even be a new Metra stop in the near future.

These developments will revitalize their communities, creating new jobs and changing the face of the south and west sides of Chicago. If they prove successful, they have the potential to change the city as a whole, drawing in more people and advancing Chicago to the next level.


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