After all, there is a “difference between being IN the community and being PART of the community”, a sentiment driven home by Mr. Harris, and this public meeting was just one example of how the Port District supports the community and will continue to do so moving forward.
The meeting was organized around 3 topics: 1) Where the port has been, 2) Where the port is now, and 3) Where the port is going. In the 2 years since Mr. Harris has been Director of the port, it is true that a lot has been accomplished. In 2017, the port increased revenue by 11.6% while simultaneously decreasing debt by 61.6% - no small feat. Reducing the debt with the help of the Illinois General Assembly and receiving $2.3 million in grant funding contributed to these numbers. Additionally, a 2017 combined economic impact study on the Port concluded that the Port is responsible for 6,381 jobs and produced a total revenue of $1,186,986,000. The Port has also received a Local Technical Assistance (LTA) grant from Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) to help develop a Master Plan for the Port. This momentum, combined with the constant outreach to understand international port best practices and to educate others about opportunities in Chicago, is advancing the Port in ways we have not seen before.
When it comes to where the Port is now, the State of the Port address showed us how the momentum from 2017 has started to materialize into concrete projects and actions. In 2018, the Port received over $17 million in grant funds to start work on the much-needed infrastructure repairs that will not only help make the port more functional but also improve appearance and perception. Infrastructure repairs focus on improvements at Butler Drive, the backbone of the Port, as it connects water-bound cargo to trucks and trains, and includes 1.2 miles of road improvements and 1.7 miles of rail improvements. One of the Port’s major goals is to become the region’s transportation logistics leader by increasing all port activity and focusing on multi-modal aspects including barge, ship, rail, and truck. Improvements at Butler Drive is a first step towards this goal.
The Port is committed now, and in the future, to support the surrounding community. Some examples include housing bees for the honey production of Sweet Beginnings, a local social enterprise that sells raw honey and honey-infused body care products, working with The Nature Conservancy to identify ways to remediate and restore Square Marsh, and collaborating with Active Transportation Alliance on ways to connect the bike park and trails at Big Marsh to Pullman. When it comes to bringing development to the Port, community feedback is highly valued, so there will be a public meeting on September 15th regarding a request for proposal (RFP) for a hotel and boat house to be built near Harborside Golf Course. A hotel would provide local jobs and many other community benefits, and Mr. Harris wants to make sure the community has an opportunity to share their ideas and give feedback prior to the RFP release. Details on this meeting can be found at IIPD.com.
Another big goal is to make the Illinois International Port District the nation’s greenest port by investing in renewable energies, and leading in conservation efforts and environmental practices. The Port has already released an RFP for solar panels to be mounted on the port’s transit sheds, pictured to the left.
There have been concepts put forth for wind turbines and thermal energy as well. The Port has the potential to produce more renewable energy on site than it consumes, so the Port would look into power purchase agreements that would allow them to share excess energy with the surrounding neighborhoods of Hegewisch, Pullman and Riverdale – another example of being PART of the community versus just being IN the community.
Finally, a framework called E.R.I.C. was introduced that will help guide the Port’s future work.
Putting these values at the center of the Port’s upcoming projects and Master Plan will ensure the Illinois International Port District stays true it’s tagline: The Greatest Multimodal Facility in North America.
All numbers sourced from the first annual State of the Port address, which can be downloaded at IIPD.com.
One of the major challenges in the Calumet is how to work with the patchwork of underutilized land, or Brownfields, in the region. While many see Brownfields as a liability, the Calumet Collaborative and partners recognize that with the proper approach, Brownfields can be an asset. In January, the article “New Partners & Projects for Brownfield Redevelopment” introduced a semester long project run in partnership with the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) Institute of Design (ID), called “The Future of Brownfields”. In this project, masters and PhD students helped us change the way we think about landfills, vacant homes, abandoned industrial sites, and contaminated natural areas.
The course produced two reports: “The Future of Brownfields” and “Brownfields: Critical Paths for Regional Redevelopment”. With these reports, students introduced an array of strategies and solutions at various levels: micro (ecosystem of products and services), meso (platforms and infrastructures), and macro (system dynamics). Andre Nogueira, project manager during the “Future of Brownfields” course and PhD Candidate, Adjunct Faculty at IIT ID, has learned “that if Brownfields could be redeveloped by involving local residents, leveraging existing assets, strengthening local economies, and empowering science, then new sustainable futures can be explored.” Andre further explains that “new types of infrastructures will be required to regenerate the region” because all strategies and solutions should be implemented together for the greatest regional impact.
The semester long project was supported by a portion of a grant from Chicago Community Trust to support Calumet Collaborative’s work on Brownfield redevelopment, and IIT ID leveraged this support to find funds to continue the project into the summer. In addition to the reports produced during the course, students created four prototypes with the purpose of engaging Calumet residents in Brownfield redevelopment. With the help of the newly secured funds, three versions of these prototypes are being tested this summer in local communities throughout the Calumet region.
As academic projects are tied to semester long time-frames, a great opportunity arose by being able to continue this project into the summer months. Community engagement is key to understanding how those that live in the Calumet will respond to these “new infrastructures” described by Andre, and with IIT ID being able to find funding to continue this project, time constraints were lifted in order to properly start engaging residents with IIT ID’s work.
"An insight that has struck me during this work is how much residents of the Calumet Region actually want to be responsible for the upkeep and preservation of the region.” - Christopher Rudd, Founder of ChiByDesign
Christopher Rudd, the founder of ChiByDesign, is originally from the Calumet region, and joined this project to assist with community engagement. “The biggest reward that I have experienced working on this project is to see youth and community members from many different walks of life show interest in one another and the natural world. An insight that has struck me during this work is how much residents of the Calumet Region actually want to be responsible for the upkeep and preservation of the region.”
Andre explains some of the prototypes being tested with the community: “We have created game simulations, sensor-based public installations (fusing art, technology, and science), and new digital platforms for civic empowerment.” These prototypes are: 1) Mini Calumet- a simulation tool that uses educational programs to reconnect local youth with the environment, 2) Flag Calumet- a modular installation structured on the intersection of art, science, and sensor technology that serves as a facilitator between local residents and the environment, and 3) Value Calumet- a digital platform for civic empowerment that matches demand and supply while mediating efforts to optimize local resources.
These prototypes aren’t typically what one would imagine when thinking about Brownfield redevelopment, but that is the point of the IIT ID project. “The Future of Brownfields" report is intended to introduce new ways of thinking about Brownfield redevelopment in the Calumet region, based on design methods, systemic approaches and asset evaluation.
After the summer portion of community engagement is completed and the prototypes are refined, the staff at IIT ID hopes to further advance the work on these prototypes into three micro-pilots in the coming year.
To learn more about this project, read both “The Future of Brownfields” and “Brownfields: Critical Paths for Regional Redevelopment” reports. If you have further questions or would like to become involved in this initiative, please reach out to Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.