I traveled to Chicago again for another set of economic development meetings in Chicago these past few months. Meetings and topics ranged across public and private sector initiatives and projects across the region.
We had the chance to talk to an array of planners, developers, insurance, and legal parties involved in regional development.
- Economic Development: Most of the meetings focused on ED and TOD plans for the city and region in general. Already in the public domain is the planned express rail project from O’Hare airport directly to downtown Chicago. While a obvious benefit to travelers and commuters the discuss still revolves around potential routes and trade-offs. This planning also is related to the O’Hare development activities around a new terminal on the western edge of the airport. Many developments like this influence our thinking and prioritization around investment in the region around innovation centers and education centers.
- Insurance: We met with reps from several large scale insurance companies that specialize in risk management around large scale projects. In many cases of transformational projects one of the largest hurtles is the indemnification of high risk zones of construction or environmental hazard. Many times sites under go development to reclaim a brown field location ( environmental contaminated site) only to have problems emerge many years later and requiring extensive cost to address. Insurance strategies must parallel the actual project in terms of strategic planning. A second aspect of interest is the role the risk management companies play in regulating costs in general development in the bidding process. Large amounts of savings can be negotiated and returned to the project for other high priority needs.
- Sites: While sites ranged from downtown, to the airport, and into the southern suburbs, one Chicago success stories is at the Pullman site to the south. This region was historically and engineered city to support the manufacturing of the Pullman rail cars and to support that community of workers and their family. This region is undergoing a rennassance on several levels. Areas of the historical town have been declared a national park preserving the architecture and heritage. Other areas of the region are being redeveloped in terms of manufacturing and retail which strengthens the economic and destination aspects of the area. This area of the state is also unique in the USA as being a central hub of transportation. Multiple interstates, major rail lines, and the canal from the great lakes to the Mississippi all converge in this county making it a strategic hub in the nations transportation systems.
- Brown Field: We had a change to meet Dan French from http://www.brownfieldlistings.com. He is a young entrepreneur who is creating a portal for all listings of Brown Field sites in America. Brown Field is become a critical consideration for regional master planning in terms of both reposing strategic locations and for the environmental clean up considerations that encumber the land. Having a thriving portal can both increase the effectiveness of planning, investment and overall awareness of the environmental conditions in regions. It can also serve long term as a source of critical data to look at trends, costs, and implications of current and past decisions.